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Harriet Tubman still an inspiration 200 years after her birth

Harriet Tubman's Birthday Celebration
Tessa R. Howard
Central New Yorkers gather to celebrate Harriet Tubman's 200th birthday.

Central New Yorkers are following the footsteps of Harriet Tubman to mark the former slave and abolitionist's bicentennial. Local revelers trekked two miles in the snow to honor the lengths Tubman walked leading others to freedom on the Underground Railroad.

The nonprofit GirlTrek pushed Black women to participate in the birthday tribute for Tubman, who spent much of her life in Auburn. But the organization’s leader, Vanessa Garrison, said the walk is part of a larger mission.

"If Harriet Tubman can walk to freedom, we can certainly walk to help. And that was it. That was the message that lit a fire for this movement and now all over the country women walk.”

Garrison and about a dozen other people on Saturday walked 2.2 miles from the Auburn Visitor Center to Tubman’s Auburn home. A larger celebration took place on Thursday that GirlTrek said involved thousands across the country and around the globe—some women participated from Nairobi, Kenya and Cairo, Egypt.

“Every walk of life, of every faith, united by this idea that in fact, we are Harriet. Harriet is all of us. She was an extraordinary woman. She did extraordinary things and yet, it is our mission in life to convince every single woman that they are the Harriet’s of their community," Garrison said.

One local walker, Auburn City Clerk Chuck Mason said he hopes the event will bring more due attention to Tubman.

“We’re so excited to be out of COVID. This Harriet Tubman weekend and bicentennial is going to help bring the important legacy of Harriet Tubman to light.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York shared a video to play at the walk.

"Sorry I can't be there with you in person but I am there in spirit," Schumer said. "For years I have been proud to support efforts and honoring the legacy of Harriet Tubman's impact on our nation."

GirlTrek’s Garrison said she believes Tubman paved the way for later generations of Black women like her.

“I’m just one of a million women, and I am the harvest of Harriet Tubman’s work," Garrison said.

The Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn is planning more celebrations with the Tubman family in June.