- New York
Explore a rich heritage of activism at fascinating sites across this region, located in the Finger Lakes of New York State.
Get an up-close look at U.S. history in Cayuga County, with idyllic towns that hold moving stories of determination and sacrifice. Many notable figures in the antislavery and women’s suffrage movements called this region home, and artifacts from their lives have been meticulously preserved at museums and historic sites. Hear the stories of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, a secret network of pathways and safe houses that helped guide enslaved people from the U.S. South to freedom in the North and beyond in Canada. Learn more about Slocum Howard and William and Frances Seward, activist contemporaries of Tubman’s. And create your own stories in Cayuga County, where voices from the past guide the way.
Experience the Equal Rights Heritage Center
The history of antislavery activism is so deeply entrenched in Auburn that its visitor center is named the Equal Rights Heritage Center. It’s a great first stop to learn about local events and attractions such as the Harriet Tubman Lantern Trail. Wander along this immersive outdoor exhibit to delve into Auburn’s pivotal sites and abolitionist activities. In the courtyard of the visitor center, reflect on the fight for equal rights before a bronze statue of Harriet Tubman.
Exploring the exhibits of the Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn
Tour the Seward House Museum
Next door to the Equal Rights Center, the Seward House Museum offers a painstakingly preserved look into the life of William Seward, who served as a New York State Senator, Governor of New York, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State during his long political career. His wife, Frances Seward, was a suffragette and abolitionist, and their home served as a shelter for enslaved people seeking freedom along the Underground Railroad. Today, the Seward House Museum boasts a vast collection of art, photographs and decorative arts in a meticulously restored 19th-century home. Book a guided tour or explore the museum and gardens at your own pace.
A tour group outside the Seward House Museum in Auburn
Encounter a Legacy at the Harriet Tubman Home
Harriet Tubman’s influence can be felt throughout Cayuga County: The storied activist spent more than 50 years living in the home she owned on South Street in Auburn. Schedule a tour of the home and grounds, which include the Harriet Tubman Home for Aged and Indigent Negroes. At the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park, slated to open in 2024, see Thompson Memorial A. M. E. Zion Church where she attended services. Minutes away, visit the historic Fort Hill Cemetery, where Tubman and the Seward family were laid to rest.
The Harriet Tubman Home, where the activist lived and worked for over 50 years
Dive into History at Howland Stone Store Museum
Auburn isn’t the only Cayuga County locale with a notable past. In the neighboring town of Aurora, Quaker activists played an important role in helping enslaved people seeking freedom along the Underground Railroad. Explore the Howland Stone Store Museum – founded by Underground Railroad conductor Slocum Howland, it houses a collection of historic artifacts from the women’s suffrage and abolition movements and tells the story of the Sherwood Equal Rights Historic District. Tour Opendore, the estate of his granddaughter Isabel Howland, where you can tour the restored home and learn more about the fight for civil rights in New York State.
The Howland Stone Store Museum preserves historic artifacts in Aurora
Fly into Frederick Douglass Greater Rochester International Airport (ROC) or Syracuse Hancock International Airport (SYR) and rent a car. From either airport, Cayuga County is a 45-minute drive. New York City is about five hours away by car.
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