Governor Hochul Names Canal Cooperation Vessel in Honor of the Inspirational Life and Legacy of Harriet Tubman
Oct. 5 2022

Governor Hochul Names Canal Cooperation Vessel in Honor of the Inspirational Life and Legacy of Harriet Tubman

In the Bicentennial Year of Tubman’s Birth, Canal Corporation Vessel Harriet Tubman is Named in her Honor in Rochester 

Tubman Utilized Erie Canal Corridor to Connect with Fellow Abolitionists 

View Photos of Harriet Tubman Vessel Here

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the New York State Canal Corporation has named one of their vessels the Harriet Tubman in honor of the famed American abolitionist and humanitarian’s inspirational life and legacy. In the bicentennial year of Harriet Tubman’s birth, the Canal Corporation dedicated the previously unnamed push tugboat at a ceremony along the Genesee River spur of the Erie Canal in Rochester, not far from abolitionist’s home and final resting place in Auburn near the Finger Lakes. 

“New York shines as a beacon of freedom and human rights for the rest of the nation, and our history is filled with iconic women – like Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Edie Windsor, to name a few – who have made great personal sacrifice to strengthen the rights and freedoms of others,” Governor Hochul said. “As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Harriet Tubman’s birth, it is our honor to recognize her commitment as a self-sacrificing abolitionist, suffragist, Civil War hero, and nurse who made meaningful and lasting contributions to our state and America’s history. By naming a vessel in her honor, we are uplifting her story of great sacrifice and the unique role that our state’s canals played as part of the Underground Railroad.”

Tubman, a leading figure of the Underground Railroad movement who helped free dozens of enslaved people, made several trips along the canal corridor, where the Erie, Champlain, Oswego and Cayuga-Seneca Canals provided an accessible route to Canada for many Freedom Seekers.

New York Power Authority Interim President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll said, “It is an enormous honor to commemorate Harriet Tubman’s lifelong bravery and sacrifice through the naming of this vessel that works each day on the waterways that provided a path to freedom for so many. Harriet Tubman is undoubtedly one of the world’s most storied human rights icons and this recognition celebrates her connection to our state and, specifically, the canal corridor.”

New York State Canal Corporation Director Brian U. Strattonsaid, “Harriet Tubman is one of the most crucial figures in our history, and her brave contributions add to the rich history of the canalway. Today, we celebrate her life and legacy, as well as the role of the canal in the abolition movement, broadening the lens through which we understand the importance of this piece of our state’s history.”

At their September meeting, the New York Power Authority and Canal Corporation Board of Trustees voted to name this previously unnamed push tugboat in honor of Harriet Tubman who devoted her life to social activism and human rights. The 2019 vessel is stationed along the Erie Canal at the Canal Corporation’s maintenance facility in Lyons, Wayne County. When working on the canal, the tugboat pushes other non-motorized vessels during transit. These vessels include derrick boats, dredges, and scows that are essential for performing routine canal operations such as dredging, buoy placement, debris removal, and transit of materials.

Great, Great, Great Niece of Harriet Tubman and Rochester resident Geraldine Howard shared the following quote of her aunt’s, “There was one of two things I had a right to, Liberty or death: if I could not have one, I would have the other – for no man should take me alive; I should fight for my liberty as long as my strength lasted, and when the time came for me to go, the Lord would let them take me.” 

Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Celebration Program Director and Rochester resident Jacqueline Sprague said, “The Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commission celebrates the spirit of collaboration with the Canal Corporation as they name one of their push boats after Harriet Tubman. We are working together to ensure her life and legacy are remembered, and that her story and work can continue to shape our present and future – whenever people see the Harriet Tubman at work on the canal, we hope that they’ll think of this trailblazing abolitionist, and how with a spirit of determination and collaboration, she was able lead many lives to freedom.”

New York Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez said, “From its connection to the abolitionist movement in Auburn to the origins of the women’s suffrage movement in nearby Seneca Falls, the Erie Canal’s rich heritage continues to inspire us to greater heights and achievements in so many ways.  The Canal’s past has become a catalyst for renewed growth and prosperity, as we reinvigorate the twenty canal communities that have received Downtown Revitalization grants, including Rochester.”

State Senator Jeremy Cooney said, “Harriet Tubman’s contributions to ending the horrors of slavery in America warrant this esteemed recognition. The Greater Rochester region was fortunate to have Ms. Tubman as a community leader and tireless advocate for civil rights. I’m grateful to the NYS Canal Corporation and the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commission for recognizing her enduring legacy on one of New York’s most iconic waterways.”

State Senator Samra Brouk said, “Harriet Tubman was one of our greatest Americans, and it is fitting that we continue to find ways to honor her legacy and uplift her life’s work as an inspiration for others. I commend the Canal Corporation as they christen a push tug in Harriet Tubman’s name, and may we continue to find ways large and small to illuminate the work of those Americans who embody the highest of our ideals.”

Assemblymember Michaelle C. Solages, Chair of the New York State Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus, said, “As we celebrate the bicentennial year of Harriet Tubman’s birth, I thank Governor Houchl for leading our State in recognizing her life. This vessel will be a daily reminder that the journey to freedom is long and everlasting.  It is incumbent upon us to continue to honor her legacy as well as acknowledge the triumphs and struggles of Black New Yorkers throughout history.”

Assemblymember Demond Meeks said, “The legacy of American Civil Rights is the legacy of the city of Rochester. As we work towards revitalizing our city, it is essential that the people of Rochester recognize the lives and lessons of its past. Harriet Tubman’s profound influence on the history of our country and our community is beyond measure. It is a privilege to commemorate her legacy today. Thank you to Jacqueline Sprague, the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commission, and the New York State Canal Corporation for spearheading this initiative.”

Assemblymember Harry Bronson said, “There were no limits to Harriett Tubman’s courage, compassion and bravery. Simply no limits. We are here today, next to the Erie Canal, a waterway that played a significant role in the Underground Railroad, to honor Harriet Tubman. This is a joyous occasion and a meaningful tribute to what is right and good in America. Today, we honor what we all should aspire to be – – to be like Harriet Tubman, a noble warrior for social justice and humanity, a believer in dignity for all.”

Assemblymember Sarah Clark said, “I’m honored to join today’s ceremony honoring Harriet Tubman, a trailblazer who defines courage and strength. As we prepare for the 200th anniversary of the Erie Canal in 2025 and celebrate advancements like the new tugboats of today, we are privileged to have historical icons like Tubman to inspire us. Thank you to Jacqueline Sprague and the Harriet Tubman Bicentennial Commission, and all the community partners and stakeholders for bringing this exciting moment to reality.”

Assemblymember Jen Lunsford said, “The naming of this new Canal push tugboat in honor of the great Harriet Tubman is particularly meaningful this year as we celebrate the bicentennial of her birth. This is such a meaningful and beautiful way to celebrate her courageous life in Western New York, home to some of the most beautiful canal towns in the state, two of which I am deeply proud to have in my new district, Fairport and Pittsford. This is yet another way to honor and remember a true American heroine, an abolitionist, suffragist and humanitarian activist in the place she chose to call home. I am honored to be here and celebrate Harriet Tubman’s life and legacy in our region.”

Monroe County Executive Adam Bello said, “Harriet Tubman’s bravery, conviction and endless fight for equality will forever be an inspiration to us all. The New York State Canal Corporation’s naming of a push tug in her honor is fitting as Harriet Tubman shepherded freedom seekers along the state’s Canal system, providing safe passage to men and women escaping enslavement. We honor our past by remembering those who risked everything to build the future, by saying their names and by telling their stories. We will always cherish Harriet Tubman’s legacy as we continue to fight every day for equity, dignity and justice.”

Rochester Mayor Malik D. Evans said, “In many African American spirituals, a code word for escaping from slavery to freedom was to cross the River Jordan. We have our own River Jordan here in the Canal system, which Harriet Tubman used to bring enslaved people to safety, often on the way to Canada. So, I think it is not only appropriate, but important, to honor that history with a boat named after Tubman. In spirit, she can continue to ply our waterways and remind us of those who risked their lives to ensure a path to freedom.”

Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Executive Director Bob Radliff said, “On the 200th anniversary of her birth, we are honored to join the NYS Canal Corporation in recognizing Harriet Tubman’s profound contributions to our Nation. Her indomitable spirit continues to inspire and call us to create a future of greater equality and opportunity.”

The naming of the Harriet Tubman followed the biennial New York State Canal Conference in Rochester, coinciding with Rochester’s ROC the Riverway celebration which included a range of diverse exhibits and events this fall.