It is with great enthusiasm and much humility that I serve as the President and CEO of this esteemed institution. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a Smithsonian Institution affiliate, a museum of ideas, a site of conscience, a museum of American history, a museum of African American history, an educational resource and a center for dialogue. It plays a vital role in the US Department of State in educating representatives of emerging democracies about the democratic process. To Cincinnatians proud of their heritage, the Freedom Center is an ongoing reminder of the region's long history of ensuring basic freedoms and human rights.
It was here on the banks of the Ohio River, where the Freedom Center now sits, that many enslaved African Americans took their first steps on freedom's shore. For this reason, escaping slaves often referred to the Ohio as "the River Jordan." This area along the Ohio was a hotbed of abolition and safe houses for those seeking freedom. But it also served as a narrow divide between the free state of Ohio and the slave state of Kentucky.
The exhibitions and programs of the Freedom Center celebrate freedom's heroes, those brave men and women who came together to create a secret network through which the enslaved could escape to freedom. From their example of courage, cooperation and perseverance, we relate this uniquely American history to contemporary issues, inspiring everyone to take steps for freedom today.
It is estimated that there are 27 million people around the world currently enslaved, more people than at any other time in human history. But we believe that – through education and inspiration – we can encourage everyone to take part in the ongoing struggles for freedom.
This website is just one of many media through which we share our mission. Here at freedomcenter.org, you'll be kept up to date on our changing exhibitions, community programs and educational outreach. You can read stories of inspiration and opportunities for action on our Freedom Blog. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook. And, if you'd like to download Freedom Center content to your iPod or smart phone, there's an app for that!
We hope you'll visit us often – here at the Freedom Center as well as through our digital content. We believe you'll be deeply touched, that you'll be inspired. We believe this because we know:
There's a spark within each of us –
Fan the Flame!
President & CEO
What We Are
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in August 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Our purpose is to tell the story of the struggle for freedom in the United States through exhibits and programs that focus on America's battle to rid itself of the ugly scourge of slavery and treat all its citizens with respect and dignity. The frame of reference of the museum is the compelling drama of the Underground Railroad. This was not an actual railroad, with tracks and cars and engines, but instead a secret network of escape routes that existed in the years leading up to the Civil War. One major escape route passed through the region in and around Cincinnati. These paths was used by escaping slaves fleeing those states where slavery was legal; along the way, they were often given food, shelter and guidance by sympathetic citizens who opposed slavery.
The underlying theme of the Underground Railroad, which we reinforce with programs, presentations and children-focused activities, is that the path to freedom -- historically and in contemporary times -- is a constant struggle requiring courage, perseverance and cooperation among people of diverse backgrounds willing to help one another.
In addition to five major permanent exhibitions, we present a full calendar of changing exhibits, programs and activities throughout the year. Our Gift Shop offers a wide array of books, recordings and unique gift items. Our North Star Cafe, open for lunch on Tuesdays through Sunday, is a relaxing place for our guests to enjoy a delicious meal at a bargain price.
Learn more about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center through the field trip.