Auburn, NY Celebrates National Black Business Month by Showcasing Harriet Tubman’s Entrepreneurial Legacy

In honor of National Black Business Month, Auburn, NY is shining a spotlight on Black-owned businesses that emulate the entrepreneurial spirit of Harriet Tubman. As the chosen hometown of this renowned freedom fighter, Auburn takes pride in celebrating these businesses that are following in Tubman’s footsteps and contributing to the vibrant economic landscape of the city.

Tubman, widely recognized as a dedicated conductor on the Underground Railroad, also possessed remarkable business acumen. She negotiated a unique agreement with her enslaver, allowing her to pay him a yearly fee in exchange for the freedom to work for anyone she chose. Tubman utilized her entrepreneurial talents to earn additional income, eventually amassing enough funds to purchase two oxen. After freeing herself and numerous others from the shackles of slavery, 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.

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.

Here are just a few of the remarkable Black business owners in Auburn, NY:

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.


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 a bold statement through fashion.

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 serves as a catalyst for success and empowerment.


Erica Manners is the owner of Essentially Erica, is a local artist, blogger, and photographer. Her captivating artwork is currently showcased in the Seward House Museum gallery, under the title “Black Excellence,” offering a powerful representation of her talent and artistic vision.


Marcia Myers is the owner of 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.


Arthur Hutchinson, known as Arthur the Artist, Hutchinson is an accomplished artist whose captivating artwork is currently on display in the Seward House Museum gallery. He also played a vital role in the creation of 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 also supporting these remarkable Black-owned businesses that contribute to the economic growth and cultural diversity of the community.

For more information and a comprehensive list of Black-owned businesses in Auburn, NY, please visit

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