Auburn is celebrating one of its most famed residents, Harriet Tubman.

This year marks the 200th anniversary of her birth. The New York Equal Rights Heritage Center in Auburn held a ceremonial birthday event in her honor.

Lisa Johnson is a teacher, motivational speaker, social activist and poet. In celebration of the occasion, Johnson wrote a poem about Tubman’s great accomplishments.

“Harriet Tubman didn’t take nothing,” said Johnson. “She spoke her truth and she remained steadfast, and she moved forward without the voices or constraints of other people telling her what to do.

As an inspiration to many, it’s hard to list all of Tubman’s achievements. But among the most recognized are leading dozens of Black people to freedom using the Underground Railroad, serving as a spy in the Civil War and fighting for women’s rights. 

“She’s an American hero,” participant Jessica Lewis said. “She represents what many of us wish we had. That legacy, that perseverance. Just to overcome any obstacles. She represents that in human form.”

Tubman found freedom in Auburn, where she spent her last 54 years. Now her home, church, and the nursing home she founded are all historical landmarks that serve to remind others of one woman’s great power.

“We have to use our collective voice, in order to move the masses,” Johnson said. “We have to stand together. We have to support each other. In order to move beyond the stop sign. In order to move beyond the corner store. If we use our collective voice, we can move mountains.”

The Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Birthday Celebration kicks off a year of events paying tribute to her.

A monument of Tubman will be on display at the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn this summer.