AUBURN — Do you have a story about Harriet Tubman's life in Auburn? It just might end up in a new biography about Tubman and her time in the community where she spent over half her life.
Ednita Wright, a professor at Onondaga Community College, is writing a book about Tubman's life in Auburn. While several books have been written about Tubman's life, Wright said, none of them go into great detail about the community where the former slave spent the last 50 years of her life after helping dozens escape slavery.
"The book is about Auburn primarily," Wright said. "My main focus is to understand what were her relationships like here in Auburn. How did she live? Who did she speak to? All of those kinds of things."
During a community forum Sunday afternoon at Auburn Public Theater, Wright shared some of her research about Tubman's life in Auburn and asked the community to come forward with any stories of their own. While no one in attendance had any particular stories to share, people did ask questions and offer ideas.
Wright shared that she became interested in Tubman in 1992 while she was doing research for her doctorate dissertation at Syracuse University. Her dissertation was not on Tubman, though, so her research got pushed to the side.
"I got fascinated with her because I felt her presence. I felt her around me as I was struggling to do my doctorate," Wright said, adding that she was one of only eight female black doctoral candidates at Syracuse at the time.
More than 20 years later, Wright decided to pursue her research on Tubman. She said she Tubman's presence in the news — the campaign to get her on the $20 bill and the work to turn her home into a national park — sparked her interest again.
"You notice how she comes back every few years?" Wright asked the audience. "She rises again in America. She's like 'Hello, I'm here.'"
Wright said she hopes her book on Tubman's life in Auburn can shed light on some of the other roles Tubman played in the county's history.
"Harriet Tubman is usually portrayed in the role of conductor of the Underground Railroad, which was a great thing but it wasn't the only thing she did," Wright said. "Harriet is a complex woman, just like we all are."
Wright reminded the audience that Tubman was a suffragist, nurse, Civil War spy, feminist, naturalist and revolutionary.
"This is where the jewels are, as far am I'm concerned," Wright said of Auburn. "In terms of what motivated her and made her feel good about herself. Made her feel good about what she was doing."
Wright has been talking to people, researching and collecting stories for her book for about a year. She hopes to have it published by 2019.
Judy Gloska came to the forum from Onondaga. She said she thinks what Wright is doing is a "worthy cause."
"Harriet Tubman is a freedom fighter," Gloska said. "We can't sweep her under the rug, especially now. She needs to be uplifted, not only as a freedom fighter but as a woman of love."
Wright will hold another community forum from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Auburn Public Theater. People can come listen to what others have to say or share any stories they have, either verbally or they may write them down on provided sheets of paper.
Wright said anyone who cannot come to the event but has Tubman stories they would like to share can contact her by email, firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone (315) 289-5580.