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Auburn, NY, is a city with a rich history and vibrant culture, serving as the chosen hometown of Harriet Tubman. With its deep roots in the Underground Railroad and abolitionist movement, Auburn stands as a testament to the resilience and bravery of those who fought for freedom and equality. Today, Auburn continues to thrive as a community that celebrates its history while embracing progress and diversity. 

Tubman is an international symbol of perseverance and determination. While she is known for her work as a dedicated conductor on the Underground Railroad, she also possessed remarkable business acumen. 

Through a unique agreement she negotiated with her enslaver, Tubman would pay him a yearly fee for the freedom to work for anyone she chose. 

After freeing herself and numerous others through her work on the Underground Railroad, she settled in Auburn, NY, where she engaged in various business ventures such as raising and selling livestock, produce, and engaging in barter with neighbors and Native American women. 

In the spirit of Tubman, Auburn has positioned itself as an emerging city for the growth and support of Black businesses.

Black entrepreneurs thrive in Auburn

The Black-owned businesses in Auburn, NY, continue to build upon Tubman’s legacy, spanning diverse sectors such as dining establishments, professional services, and home and self-care products.

These enterprises exemplify Tubman’s unwavering entrepreneurial spirit, and the city takes great pride in highlighting them to encourage visitors from all over the country to pay homage by supporting these endeavors.

1. Co-Working Space – Melody Smith Johnson offers office or retail space specifically designed for women, representing the first Black woman-owned business of its kind in Cayuga County.

Additionally, she operates Divine Coverings, a company dedicated to creating products that enhance a woman’s world. Melody also founded a nonprofit organization, empowering young women of color from inner cities across America by connecting them to financial and relational resources, paving the way for them to achieve their full potential.

2. Retail/Apparel – Ashley McLeod is the director of In Our Words Apparel. Ashley inspires women to embrace their authentic selves unapologetically. Her company offers empowering clothing with statements like “Be Like Harriet” and “We Aren’t Going Anywhere,” empowering women to make bold statements through fashion.

3. Business Services – Gwen Webber-McLeod is the president and CEO of Gwen, Inc., a leadership development expert committed to supporting mid- to executive-level leaders, particularly individuals of color, to become confident, competent, courageous, and calm. Her expertise in leadership development catalyzes success and empowerment.

Continuing Harriet Tubman’s legacy

4. Art/Entertainment – Erica Manners owns Essentially Erica. She is a local artist, blogger, and photographer. Her captivating artwork is showcased in the Seward House Museum gallery under the title “Black Excellence,” which is a powerful representation of her talent and artistic vision.

5. Food/Beverage – Marcia Myers owns Lavish Lounge. Marcia brings the flavors of authentic Jamaican and American cuisine to Auburn. Her establishment offers a delightful culinary experience that combines tradition and innovation.

6. Art/Entertainment – Arthur Hutchinson, known as Arthur the Artist, is an accomplished artist whose captivating artwork is currently on display in the Seward House Museum gallery. He also played a vital role in creating the Harriet Tubman mural unveiled in downtown Auburn last year. Recognized for his collaborative efforts, Hutchinson recently received the prestigious 2023 Tourism Award from Cayuga County.

Auburn is not only a city rich in historical significance but also home to businesses that embody the tenacity and business acumen of Harriet Tubman. Visitors exploring Auburn can immerse themselves in history while supporting these remarkable Black-owned businesses contributing to the community’s economic growth and cultural diversity.
For more information about Auburn, NY, and its fantastic variety of Black-owned businesses, visit

Martie serves as the Entertainment Reporter for The Black Wall Street Times. She covers numerous topics including viral social moments to the most exciting happenings in Black Hollywood. For tips or story...

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