Voices

Freedom Center Voices

Friday, June 3, 2016 - 14:32

Here's Why We Should Not Boycott Roots

By now you may have read Snoop’s comments about the reboot of Roots and his call to boycott the series. His comments, which he delivered this week via Instagram—from his account that boasts a following of 10. 5 million users—has already driven numerous responses, including comments from the producers of the series reboot, Roland Martin & Levar Burton, the latter of whom played Kunta Kinte in the original 1977 miniseries. But Roots is much more than a story about slavery, it’s a story about the black experience in America.

 

So, here's why we should NOT boycott Roots.

 

1. History

It's important. In the 150 plus years since the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment, the latter of which abolished institutionalized slavery in America, never before have we been more equipped to tell the story of the people that endured the system and the subsequent atrocities that followed its end, by the descendants of those who endured it. Prior to the miniseries, stories about slavery and the Civil War in mainstream culture and media— print, film and music— were predominately told by Southern sympathizers, like D.W. Griffith and Margaret Mitchell, who romanticized the period and further perpetuated derogatory stereotypes of black people, diminishing them to caricatures. Roots was the first time that America’s dark history –from slavery to the contemporary issues of the day—was told from the black perspective, with strong, unapologetic characters like Kunta Kinte, to a prime-time audience.

 

 

2. A Brief History of the Black Image in Media

Roots was revolutionary—not in subject matter alone, but in presentation and representation.  The original Roots aired a little more than a decade after the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965.  In an address at the National Broadcast Editorial Conference of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in July of 1964, the then president of CBS, Frank Stanton, called upon broadcasters to launch a "mighty and continuing editorial crusade" in support of civil rights. Albeit the call was initially was made to focus on blacks as the subjects of documentaries in alignment with Lyndon B. Johnson’s vision of the “Great Society,” the shows produced during this time period—The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show, Julia, Star Trek and The Mod Squad, to name a few—placed black actors in leading and supporting roles, introducing mainstream America to black culture and issues.

Prior to this shift, films starring black actors made by black filmmakers – Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams and James and Eloyce Gist—in order to contradict negative stereotypes, were suppressed by major studios, especially to Southern audiences. Films produced during the Golden Age of Hollywood that featured or starred black actors, such as Gone with the Wind, Cabin in the Sky, Stormy Weather, Imitation of Life and Pinky, were few and far between and mostly catered to white audiences, perpetuating archetypical “black” characters. The shift that Stanton called for in 1964 had already begun playing out in Hollywood with the arrival of Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Ruby Dee, Ozzie Davis and more, many of whom made the leap from theater to the silver screen. But, for all the progress made in front of the camera, there was still progress to be made behind the camera. The original Roots screenplay and series directors included Alex Haley and Gilbert Moses, co-founder of the Free Southern Theater Company whose establishment was part of the Black Theater Movement, in alignment with the Civil Rights Movement. Having black writers produce work for mainstream consumption was still considered a risky investment.

 

 

 

3. Something that "happened 200 years ago" ABSOLUTELY relates to contemporary issues.

When Roots aired in January of 1977, the nation was still recovering from the Vietnam War, civil unrest and economic crisis. The manufacturing jobs that drew southern black families north during the Great Migration began to dwindle in the mid-60s and were being outsourced to other countries where the cost of labor was cheaper.  But the burden of a national trend affecting cities across the country was disproportionately suffered by black and brown, working class families, as white families began moving out of cities (see white flight) to avoid the desegregation of schools and Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968—the Fair Housing Act—which prohibited housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. What does slavery have to do with this? Systemic Racism—Jim Crow, employment and housing discrimination, incarceration, the school- to prison pipeline, the wealth gap, the war on drugs and infant mortality all stem from the systematic stripping of constitutional rights established during the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877).  Roots is a saga—and it begins with slavery because that’s where the story of blacks in America begins.

 

4. Should we watch Soul Plane instead or nah?

You're right about one thing—we need more black stories in mainstream media. Stories and images that showcase who we are culturally and celebrates our diversity, because we are not a monolith.  Please!—make movies and media that tell multiple stories of a rich culture and diverse people. In the last decade, television has seen a resurgence of black characters in leading roles in the coveted prime time television spot. The rise of social media and streaming services has also provided previously unknown black actors, writers and producers— like Issa Rae— with a powerful platform in which our stories can be seen and consumed by the masses, jettisoning black actors and black stories back into traditional media outlets. Shows like Martin, Living Single, Girlfriends, A Different World and many more, have reintroduced the contemporary black experience to new audiences and a new generation of viewers. What’s more is that the characters are three dimensional, beautifully nuanced roles written, produced and directed by people of color. The creation of these complex roles provide more to mainstream media consumption than bland, unrealistic,  stock "black" characters, previously written by writers who knew nothing of what it is like to be black in contemporary America.

 

So yes, Snoop, I will be watching—well, streaming—because in a time where states are violating voting rights and where activists have to remind society that Black Lives Matter, it is extremely important that we go back to our roots.

 

Assia Micheaux Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Images: Roots (2016) Via History Channel, Still from Stormy Weather  via MGM and allposters.com

Related Content: The Emancipation ProclamationThe Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: Freedom Center Open This Memorial Day, May 30, Freedom Center Open Sundays in Summer, Gift Shop Sale: Mother's Day Gift Ideas and More!, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New CuratorReveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 16:44

Freedom Center Gift Shop Sale

 

The Gift Shop at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is full of great gift ideas for your entire family—with a variety of books, apparel, souvenirs, art, beautifully and locally hand-crafted jewelry, toys, housewares and more!  Now is the perfect time to purchase an inspired gift during our store-wide 75% off sale, where Freedom Center members get an additional 20% off their purchase! Click here to become a member today.

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 15:26

Freedom Center Open This Memorial Day, May 30

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be open to the public on Memorial Day, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

 

In addition to being open on Memorial Day, the museums's summer hours begin this Sunday, May 29, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., through Labor Day weekend.

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs?  Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @FreedomCenter and on Facebook, for more historical posts and images. 

Assia Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Related Content: ENSLAVEDThe Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: Freedom Center Open Sundays in Summer, Gift Shop Sale: Mother's Day Gift Ideas and More!, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New CuratorReveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 15:16

Freedom Center Open Sundays In Summer

 

 

The museum will be open on Sundays beginning May 29.

 

 

 

Our extended summer hours provide more opportunities to engage in historical programming, tour permanent exhibitions and experience special exhibitions including ENSLAVED: A Visual Story of Modern Day Slavery, featuring images by world-renown humanitarian photographer, Lisa Kristine and see the founding documents of freedom, The Emancipation Proclamation and The Thirteenth Amendment, before they close July 24.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s seasonal Sunday hours begin this Sunday, May 29, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., through Labor Day weekend.

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs?  Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @FreedomCenter and on Facebook, for more historical posts and images. 

Assia M. Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Related Content: ENSLAVEDThe Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: Gift Shop Sale: Mother's Day Gift Ideas and More!, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New CuratorReveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 09:39

Comments on The Image of Harriet Tubman on the U.S. $20 Bill

The richness of American diversity and the multifaceted contributions to American democracy is making an appearance on American currency. Harriet Tubman’s image on the American $20 bill represents a recognition of the role people of color and women played in making the United States of American a beacon of hope for the world. Tubman is known primarily as an abolitionist, fighting against slavery, and as the matriarch of the Underground Railroad, navigating the route to freedom for persons bold enough to escape from slavery. She was also an indispensable part of the military efforts of the Union Army. Tubman served the Union Army as a cook, a nurse, a scout, and a resourceful spy who risked her life moving through the south gathering intelligence which aided the union cause. Tubman represents the depth of American liberty. About liberty she stated, “I would fight for liberty so long as my strength lasted.” It was most appropriate that when she died Harriet Tubman was buried with military honors. She was a solider for the cause of the Union of the United States. She was also a solider for justice, for women’s rights, for the rights of all persons to enjoy the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I am particularly pleased that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who I had the honor of meeting when he served as Deputy Secretary of State and I served as U.S. Ambassador to the African Union, has taken the bold step in recognizing Harriet Tubman’s contribution to American democracy by placing her image on one of our nation’s most widely used pieces of currency. As Executive Vice President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the home of the Harriet Tubman Theatre, I am hopeful that the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be one of the places for a public unveiling of the currency and a public discussion of contributions to American democracy made by Harriet Tubman. 

 

Dr. Michael A. Battle, Executive Vice President/Provost of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Related Content:  The Thirteenth AmendmentThis Week: Satchel Paige and the Kansas City SwingKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkThe 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 08:42

Freedom Center Open Mondays in May

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be open to the public each Monday in May from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum’s regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The additional hours of operation are needed to accommodate the demand for school group visits throughout the month of May. Nearly 8,000 students will visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center this month.

Students from across the region will visit the museum this month, as well as students from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.



The additional hours for school groups provide more opportunities for the public to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and see rare, original copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment. The exhibit featuring both freedom documents side-by-side closes June 30, 2016. Visitors will also have the opportunity to tour ENSLAVED: A Visual Story of Modern Day Slavery opening Saturday, May 7, 2016ENSLAVED features images by world-renowned humanitarian photographer Lisa Kristine that not only document the lives endured by slaves but also celebrate the freedom they never dreamed possible.

Related Content: ENSLAVEDThe Thirteenth Amendment.

Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 14:57

Chris Felix Artwork Available for Purchase During Screening of American Pastime

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will host local artist Chris Felix May 4, whose commissioned artwork of American baseball legend Kenichi Zenimura entitled “Kenichi Zenimura, Go for Broke,” will be on view and available for purchase at the screening of American Pastime—a compelling drama, directed Desmond Nakano, set in the Topaz War Relocation Center that interned thousands of Japanese Americans during WWII.

The screening of American Pastime is the fourth film in The Freedom Film series and will take place Wednesday, May 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the Harriet Tubman Theater. The screening is free and open to the public. A welcome reception will be held in the Grand Hall at 5:30 p.m. with the film screening promptly at 6:30 p.m. The Freedom Film Series is sponsored by Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

 

 

Felix, a Cincinnati native and College of Art Advertising alumni, has been featured in museums across the country including, The Louisville Slugger Museum, The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (New York), The Green Diamond Gallery (Cincinnati), The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, The Museum Center at Cincinnati Union Terminal, The National Art Museum of Sport (Indianapolis), The George Krevsky Gallery (San Francisco), Convivio Center (San Diego) and the Art on the Levee Gallery (Newport). His art encapsulates the excitement of the great American pastime while celebrating and highlighting Cincinnati’s unique history and role in the sport and its unique players.

Felix’s skill in calling out little-known stories in a widely discussed sport helped to bring Kenichi “The Dean of the Diamond” Zenimura’s compelling story to the forefront of the discussion, where race and civil rights intersect with professional sports. Zenimura was born on January 25, 1900 in Hiroshima, Japan. Shortly after his birth, his family immigrated to America, where they settled in Honolulu, Hawaii. Zenimura’s career in professional baseball began in 1920 in Fresno, California, where he played on all Japanese-American professional teams. He became known as “The Father of Japanese American Baseball,” for his unique ability to play all positions and work collaboratively with Japanese-American, Negro League and Major League teams, quickly becoming an international ambassador for baseball, where he led tours to Japan in 1924, 1927 and 1937. During WWII, Zenimura and his family were sent to the Gila River Indian Reservation at the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona, where he immediately began to establish a baseball field and 32-team league. His efforts would give the hundreds of thousands of interned Japanese Americans a sense of pride and hope during a time of unjust, heighted paranoia and mistrust of a group of Americans.

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs?  Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @FreedomCenter and on Facebook, for more historical posts and images. 

Assia Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Related Content: ENSLAVEDThe Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New CuratorReveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 14:53

Gift Shop Sale: Mother's Day Gift Ideas and More!

Still trying to figure out what to get mom this Mother's Day? The Gift Shop at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is full of great gift ideas—including beautifully and locally hand-crafted jewelry, art, souvenirs, apparel, books, toys, fashion accessories, housewares and more!  Now is the perfect time to purchase an inspired gift for mom during our store-wide 50% off sale, where Freedom Center members get an additional 20% off their purchase!

One of our featured fair trade items is from the Nomi Network and Baskets of Cambodia—two non-profits working to empower survivors of human trafficking with economic and educational opportunities. The Nomi Network was founded in 2009, creating economic opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking. Through their network, women gain employable skills, secure vital income and educate their daughters, breaking the cycle of poverty and exploitation.

If you’re looking to gift an experience your mom won’t soon forget, take her to the opening of ENSLAVED—the new special exhibition opening May 7 that documents the lives endured by slaves and celebrates the freedom they never dreamed possible.  The exhibition is a powerful statement about one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time with compelling photography that captures the experience of a moment lived in slavery, allowing the viewer to peek into the lives of those who are enslaved. Click here to learn about the exhibit opening with the photographer of the exhibition, Lisa Kristine.

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs?  Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @FreedomCenter and on Facebook, for more historical posts and images. 

Assia Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Related Content: ENSLAVED, The Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New Curator, Reveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - 17:08

This Week: Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing

Play Ball!

Just in time for baseball season, Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing heads to the mound at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park,  running April 23 to May 21. The play is an inspirational new drama by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan, whose collaboration about the Tuskegee Airmen, Fly, was a smash Playhouse hit in 2013.

Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing finds the pitcher at the crossroads of his already legendary career. It’s the fall of 1947, and Paige’s fame is being eclipsed by Jackie Robinson’s historic inaugural season. Robinson was the first African-American player in the modern era to break Major League Baseball’s color line. Paige’s team is in the midst of the unofficial end-of-season barnstorming circuit, in which all-star black and white teams could play against each other. Bob Feller is the white pitcher he’s set to face on a rainy night in Kansas City.

Thanks to that rainout, much of the action takes place off the field in Mrs. Hopkins’ elegant black boarding house, where the players congregate to wait for the mud-washed roads to become passable. Mrs. Hopkins represents Kansas City’s cultured, successful if separate black middle class, while her teenaged daughter Moira strains against the segregated status quo. A story of passion and perseverance, this jazz-infused drama paints a vivid picture of America on the brink of great change — on and off the baseball diamond.

“I hope what audiences take from Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing is that there was a time in America when we had our own kings and queens within black communities,” says Khan, who is also directing the Playhouse production. “That’s what we were. I want us to be proud of those lost legacies and be inspired to a greatest sense of ourselves today. Although segregated, we were at the top of our game — not major and minor, just us.

“I hope we not only come out of this knowing a little more about the history, but also with knowledge and a sense of pride, along with an appreciation that segregation does not exist like that anymore. If we got through all that, I believe that the forces that try to tear us apart today are things we can also handle.”

The Playhouse is offering Freedom Center members an exclusive discount on tickets to Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing. Members can purchase up to four half-price tickets to performances from April 24 to May 5, excluding Saturdays. This offer is valid in Price Zone 2 and 3 section seating by using promotion code Freedom. It is not valid on previous purchases or with other discounts, including teen and student tickets.

Satchel Paige and the Kansas City Swing is sponsored by Ohio National Financial Services and Fifth Third Bank. Tickets for the show are on sale now through the Playhouse Box Office. For details, call 513-421-3888 or visit www.cincyplay.com.

 

Christa Skiles, Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park

Related Content:  The Thirteenth Amendment, King Records now a Cincinnati landmark, The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games

Images provided by Cincinnati Playhouse

Friday, April 22, 2016 - 12:11

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New Curator

This month, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center announced the appointment of Ashley Jordan of Mansfield, OH, to the role of curator. Jordan's appointment comes as the museum approaches the close of its 2015-2016 theme, "Stories That Must Be Told."

As an undergraduate student at Kent State University, Jordan was a member of the Ronald McNair Scholar’s Program. In 2008, she graduated with a B.A. in History with a minor in Political Science. Shortly after graduation, Jordan accepted a position as a Community Organizer through AmeriCorps. Upon the completion of her one-year service term, she accepted an academic scholarship to attend Howard University for her graduate studies in Public History where she received sound educational training as well as gainful internship experiences. Jordan has had the opportunity to work with the National Museum of American History’s African American Community Life Division; Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial; Mary McLeod Bethune Council House; the National Park Foundation and Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit.

 

In the spring of 2011, she graduated with her Masters, but her commitment to understand and cultivate greater depths in the United States History prompted her to continue her studies. Thus, the following school year she entered the Ph.D. Program at Howard University. As a doctoral student, with an expected graduation date of spring 2017, Jordan’s topic of research is “Steeling Our Way to the Midwest: The Migration of African Americans to Ohio.” The scope of her study looks at the “push-pull factors” that caused many African Americans to flee to the North. The timeline of research begins with the Underground Railroad and concludes with the First Great Migration.

Prior to her arrival at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Jordan spent the last two years as the curator of the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce, Ohio. “Ms. Jordan’s arrival to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center marks another exciting moment in our second decade of operation,” says Dr. Michael Battle, executive vice president and provost of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “Her experience and background, coupled with her passion and dedication to education and the preservation of history, will surely strengthen our institution’s reputation as a museum of history and of conscience. It’s an honor to welcome her to the Freedom Center family.”

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs?  Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @FreedomCenter and on Facebook, for more historical posts and images. 

Assia Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Related Content: The Thirteenth Amendment.

Image: Ashley Jordan

More authored by Assia: Reveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

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