The name of Harriet Tubman has become synonymous with the effort to bring slaves north out of slavery. How did this one woman become such a widespread symbol of freedom and courage? The Geneva Historical Society and the Speakers in the Humanities program of the New York Council for the Humanities will bring Syracuse University Professor Milton C. Sernett to the Society to address this question in his lecture “Harriet Tubman: The Forging of an American Icon” at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13.
According to Sernett, “Harriet Tubman's name graces scores of public institutions, voluntary organizations, good causes, and, most fittingly, two memorial postage stamps. Each year thousands of visitors, some on pilgrimages from the Eastern Shore of Maryland, come to the Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, New York, where they encounter busloads of school children who have grown up on stories of 'the Moses of her People' written specifically for them.” Among other things, she has been called the “Queen of the Underground Railroad,” our “black Joan of Arc,” and “General Tubman.” In this lecture, Sernett will examine the contours of the canonization of Harriet Tubman as an American icon in light of current research and efforts to memorialize her.
Sernett has a master's degree in divinity studies from Concordia Theological Seminary and an M.A. and Ph.D. in American history from the University of Delaware. He is currently Professor of African American Studies and Adjunct Professor of Religion at Syracuse University. Sernett is a member and vice-chair of the New York State Freedom Trail Commission. He has six books and numerous articles published on abolition and African American religion.
Since its launch in 1983, the New York Council for the Humanities Speakers in the Humanities program has linked distinguished scholars with diverse audiences through the presentation of lectures on a broad range of topics. Each year hundreds of cultural institutions and community groups take advantage of this program, which offers the very best in humanities scholarship to thousands of citizens in every corner of New York State. The Tubman lecture will be the eighth Speakers program the Geneva Historical Society has offered in the past five years.
The New York Council for the Humanities is a private, not-for-profit organization working to ensure the presence of the humanities in the cultural life of New York State. The Council's programs train teachers; encourage excellence in student scholarship; support public programs and New York State's cultural organizations; and forge relationships between young people, their families and New York's extraordinary range of humanities institutions.
The Geneva Historical Society Museum is located in the Prouty-Chew House at 543 South Main Street and is open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Admission is free. Parking is on the street or in the Trinity Episcopal Church lot across the street.
The Geneva Historical Society receives major funding from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Institute for Museum and Library Services, the New York Council for the Humanities and the Town and City of Geneva.