AUBURN | The Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn has long celebrated the life and legacy of the famous abolitionist.

The 39th Annual Harriet Tubman Pilgrimage was special in that it fell 100 years after Tubman's death, and people gathered Saturday to celebrate her life while commemorating her passing.

"Honoring legacy is extremely important in lifting her core values, but what is more important is what we do with our own work and service in our own community because Harriet Tubman's life was a life of service," said Karen Hill, president and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home.

Hill said it has been "extraordinary" partnering with churches in New York State and with other individuals from around the country in making the pilgrimage a reality.

"Our goal is to energize these folk to join our letter writing campaign to support the Harriet Tubman legislation that Congressman (Dan) Maffei has introduced to the House," she said.

Events for the pilgrimage were scheduled Friday and Saturday. A play was conducted Friday at the Auburn Junior High School with a performance by the Dorothy Cotton Jubilee Singers.

Saturday was led with a ceremony at Tubman's gravesite located in the Fort Hill Cemetery. A brief service was held before a wreath laying ceremony with several of Tubman's descendents in attendance.

The ceremony was capitulated by a military salute of three shots from Jerry Orton of the Sons of Union Veterans association.

A commemoration was held at the Harriet Tubman Home where hundreds gathered to honor Tubman. Attending guests included Maffei and Auburn Mayor Michael Quill.

Maffei thanked those in attendance for their support of the Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks Act.

"Harriet Tubman is needed today more than ever," Maffei said. "The most important reason to designate this area a national park ... is not for us, but is indeed for our children and the children that will come after us. It's vitally important that every day, every day, we pass on this spirit."

Quill, on behalf of himself and the city council, proclaimed a city resolution that 2013 will be recognized as the year of Harriet Tubman.

"Remember Harriet's words: 'never give up,'" he said. "What a wonderful society we would have if everyone keeps trying. Please take that one message when you leave today."

Speaking at the commemoration was George Washington Carver Walker Sr., the retired senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Carver said that New York state should have an official holiday to commemorate Tubman.

"We ask for a holiday," Carver said. "We should knock on the door of the governor's office, of the general Assembly and on the state Senate until this be done."

The day concluded with a pageant organized by the Western New York Conference of the AME Zion Church. Children from the church held a fundraiser to support further church functions.

Staff writer Greg Mason can be reached at 282-2239 or greg.mason@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at CitizenMason.

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