New York Equal Rights Heritage Center opens

Nov 15, 2018

Officials in Auburn have opened the $10 million Equal Rights Heritage Center, a place for visitors to learn about the important social movements throughout New York State history. It is meant to drive tourism and educate the public on the historic significance of the region.

Pauline Copes Johnson, the great-great-grandniece of Harriet Tubman, takes questions from a reporter in front of the new statue of Tubman.
Credit Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

Harriet Tubman and other historic people and movements that brought social change, like civil, women, labor and gay rights are featured at the center. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul helped unveil a new statue of Tubman outside the center.

“If you come here and you are not moved, then you don’t have a pulse,” Hochul said. “Anybody who comes here is going to be just struck by what we have here as part of the New York story and New York history.”

Hochul said it is important to celebrate diversity, particularly in the era of President Donald Trump, when many groups, she said, are under attack.

“And to inspire people to really take up the causes and show up at the marches and to contact your legislators and go down to Washington and be part of the movements of today,” Hochul said.

A visitor center was proposed in Auburn’s original New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative plan two years ago, but it was rejected. Auburn Mayor Michael Quill said Gov. Andrew Cuomo called him to say he still liked the idea.

“People come into town for one attraction, one event, they don’t know anything else that’s going on in our community, or the surrounding communities,” Quill said. “The governor agreed with us that we needed a visitors center and he helped us out.”

Auburn also won $10 million in the latest round of DRI state funding this year.