September is National Underground Railroad Month. September was chosen as the month to honor and remember the Underground Railroad because it is the month that both Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman escaped from slavery. Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass are among the most famous freedom seekers, and they both lived in New York State.
Cayuga County has significant history rooted in the Underground Railroad. Research done by Judith Wellman, New York State historian and researcher specializing in the Underground Railroad identified one hundred sites in Cayuga County and sixty of them in the City of Auburn. The National Parks Service has a program called the “Network to Freedom” which honors locations related to the Underground Railroad. The Network to Freedom currently has over 600 locations nationwide, 12 of which are in Cayuga County, including the following:
Harriet Tubman House in Auburn, Harriet Tubman’s home and farm where she became a landowner, farmer, and philanthropist.
Harriet Tubman Burial Site at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, where she was buried in 1913 after living 93 years, 50 of which she spent in Cayuga County.
Howland Stone Store in Aurora: As part of the Sherwood Equal Rights Historic District, it played a major role in the Underground Railroad and preserves an impressive history.
Seymour Library in Auburn: Aside from being a Network to Freedom site, the library and its many important programs is an ideal location to learn more and do your own personal research.
Seward House Museum-William and Frances Seward House in Auburn: Avid abolitionists, their basement was used as a stop on the Underground Railroad. The Seward’s were also the ones that invited Harriet Tubman to move to Auburn from St. Catharine’s and sold her property for $1,200 that she built her house on.
There are numerous events happening around the county to honor and celebrate the significant history of the Underground Railroad. For more information visit out our website at www.tourcayuga.com and the official Harriet Tubman Bicentennial page www.harriettubman200.com.
Below are just a few of the upoming events celebrating Underground Rail Road Month.
Sept. 17: "All Are Welcome Here: African American Connections to Sherwood"
Sept. 24: - Seward House Museum: Harriet Tubman Specialty Tour
Sept 24: Harriet Tubman: Her Life in Freedom Mural ribbon-cutting ceremony
All month: "Forged in Freedom: The Bond of the Seward Tubman Families"
All month: Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad self-drive tour of Auburn and Cayuga County
Another perfect way to learn and explore is by heading out to enjoy the beautiful cooler weather and follow two self-drive tours highlighting many of these sites. The Auburn self-drive tour includes 34 sites, and the Cayuga County tour takes you from Fair Haven, Aurora, Sempronius, to Moravia to explore 27 sites. The self-drive tours can be downloaded from your favorite app store by searching “Tubman’s UGRR - Cayuga County” or visiting our website.
This month is of particular importance for us to stop, reflect, respect and learn. Visit the sites that mark our history, ask questions from the curators, reach out to a friend to include them in your journey, and support Black-owned businesses in remembrance and respect of the freedom seekers that passed through Cayuga County as well as the many that stayed and whose families still call Cayuga County home.
Article orignally published in The Citizen on September 8
Karen Kuhl is executive director of the Cayuga County Office of Tourism and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The office is the designated tourism promotion agency for Cayuga County and promotes the county’s attractions, events and lodging establishments. For more information, visit tourcayuga.com.