Saluting Harriet Tubman and “History’s Hometown”—Auburn, NY

Known as “History’s Hometown,” Auburn, NY was home to abolitionist Harriet Tubman who spent the last 50 years of her life in this Central New York city.

Harriet Tubman was guided by a deep faith and devotion to family, freedom, and community. After escaping from slavery, she moved herself and her family from Ontario, Canada to Fleming and Auburn, New York in 1859. At that time, Central New York was a center for progressive thought, abolition, and women’s suffrage where Tubman continued to fight for human rights and dignity.

Tubman was the most famous “conductor” of the Underground Railroad and guided more than 300 slaves to freedom. She worked tirelessly to save money to return and save more slaves. Many Underground Railroad supporters provided her with funds and shelter to support her trips.

During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse, cook, spy and scout. After the Emancipation Proclamation became the law of the land, she returned to Auburn, NY where she lived for more than 50 years. During that time, she opened her doors to those in need. With private donations and the proceeds from her vegetable garden, she was able to support herself and those she helped. She raised money to open schools for African Americans and gave speeches on Women’ rights. Her dream was to build a home for the elderly and in 1896 Tubman bought at auction 25 acres of land next to her property for $1,450. The African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church also raised funds for the home and with the support of a local bank that provided a mortgage, Tubman was able to complete the transaction.

In 1903, as she was unable to make tax payments on the property, Tubman donated it to the AME Zion Church with the condition that the church would continue to operate the home and keep her dream alive. It took five years to fully staff and equip the home and on June 23, 1908 the Harriet Tubman Home for the Elderly opened. Tubman continued to live in her home until her health deteriorated and she could no longer care for herself. She moved next door where she was cared for until her death in 1913.

Today the memory of the woman known as the “Moses of her people” is kept alive at the Harriet Tubman House and the AME Zion Church in Auburn, NY where both structures stand as tributes to her amazing life and core values of freedom and equality for all.

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