We first learn about Harriet Tubman in elementary school: an extraordinary woman who escaped slavery only to return, again and again, to lead others to freedom on the Underground Railroad.
But this great soul was also part of a complex tapestry of abolitionists, challenging the unjust laws and social structures of their day to create a society free from the stain of human bondage. Some achieved prominence in the history books, but many others toiled in relative obscurity, focused solely on the work of justice and liberation.
The collaborative effort to create lasting change is the heart of Binghamton University’s Harriet Tubman Center for Freedom and Equity, directed by History Professor Anne Bailey and Associate Director Sharon Bryant, also the associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion for Decker College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
“People like Harriet Tubman did amazing work bringing people to freedom from the South to this area and other areas in the North. But she also worked with a group of abolitionists, and that was a multicultural group, both Black and white. It wasn’t a one-woman show,” Bailey says. “In many ways, that’s what we’re doing: We’re trying to empower others to be co-conductors with us. We’re saying, ‘Join the effort in any way you can.’”
The center opened in 2019 — the 400th anniversary of the consistent presence of people of African descent in North America, and the start of race-based slavery in what became the United States. The center’s fundamental mission is to advance justice and equity across multiple dimensions, particularly in history, educational access and success, and in medicine and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
“Over the past couple of years, many more people have become aware of rampant inequity in American society, and tensions across the political spectrum run high. The Tubman Center is vital in providing a forum for the issues of the day to be discussed and deliberated about,” says De
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