Voices

Freedom Center Voices

Friday, October 16, 2015 - 00:00

Ohio Civil Rights Commission Honors Ohioans Who Furthered Civil and Human Rights

This week, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center staff attended the seventh annual Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio. The Hall of Fame was created by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, in order to “acknowledge the citizens who have left their mark in the State of Ohio through their tireless efforts in furthering civil and human rights in their communities.”

This year’s inductees included founder of the Columbus Urban League, Nimrod B. Allen, founding member of the Global Organization of People of Indian Origin, Nirmal K. Sinha, Cincinnati philanthropists Schuyler and Merri Gaither Smith and member of the US House of Representatives, Louis Stokes. Attendees from across the state gathered as their peers in civil rights received recognition for their great service, including fellow Hall of Famers, Judge Nathaniel Jones and Dr. Marian Spencer.

Dr. Sean Decatur, 19th president of Kenyon college and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of Oberlin College, served as keynote speaker, where he thanked “those that opened the door” for him and continued to inspire greatness in others through their legacies. Decatur emphasized his responsibility as an educator and the duties of an educated society by recalling a passage of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, The Three Dimensions Of A Complete Life, in which King stressed that length, breadth and height are equal components of a complete life:

“And there are three dimensions of any complete life to which we can fitly give the words of this text: length, breadth, and height.  Now the length of life as we shall use it here is the inward concern for one’s own welfare. In other words, it is that inward concern that causes one to push forward, to achieve his goals and ambitions. The breadth of life as we shall use it here is the outward concern for the welfare of others. And the height of life is the upward reach for God. Now you got to have all three of these to have a complete life… When you get all three of these working together, you will do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.”

Click here to read King’s full speech. Read the full list of Hall of Fame inductees here. 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 

 

Images: Dr. Sean Decatur addressing a captive audience at the Ohio Statehouse and Schuyler and Merri Gaither Smith with Civil Rights Commission chair Leonard Hubert.

 

Related Content: Kin Killin’ KinPower of the Vote.

 

More authored by Assia:Freedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmark, On 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, October 12, 2015 - 16:53

King Records now a Cincinnati landmark

Last week, the unofficial national musical treasure, King Records, was named a historic landmark of the City of Cincinnati. The now legendary music recording complex, located on Brewster Ave. in the Evanston neighborhood, was one of the most influential recording labels of the 1940s and 1950s and would become the nation’s sixth largest record company. 

King Records was founded by Syd Nathan in 1943 and specialized in country music, advertising itself as “hillbilly music.” The company soon branched out into “race records” on a separate label aptly named Queen Records, which greatly outpaced sales of the main label. Within two years, Queen Records was absorbed into the main label, where the new King Records would go on to boast a diverse catalog of artists in multiple genres including, James Brown, Bootsy Collins, Ike Turner, Hank Ballard, Otis Redding, John Lee Hooker and Lavern Baker.

This November, Cincinnati voters will have the opportunity to vote on a parks levy that will help restore and preserve many parks and public sites, including King Records. During the council meeting, Councilman Wendell Young fondly recalled growing up in Cincinnati with King records, “Very often as a kid, I saw many of these artists and I took them for granted,” Young said. “If you live around it, you don’t often appreciate it until something drastic happens.”

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 

 

Image: Steve Halper/New York Times.

Related Content: Picture FreedomPower of the Vote.

More authored by Assia: On 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, October 12, 2015 - 00:00

Freedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs Thursday

This Thursday, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will host award-winning author and Yale University alumni Jeff Hobbs at 6 p.m. in the Harriet Tubman Theater, where he will discuss his latest work, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League. Hobbs’ lecture is the first lecture in the John and Francie Pepper Freedom Lecture Series—a new series connecting the public with award-winning authors, historians and thought-leaders, discussing themes on history, race, culture and modern abolition.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League reveals the story of Hobbs’ college roommate for four years, Robert Peace. Robert’s life was rough from the beginning in the crime-ridden streets of Newark in the 1980s, with his father in jail and his mother earning less than $15,000 a year. But Robert was a brilliant student, and it was supposed to get easier when he was accepted to Yale, where he studied molecular biochemistry and biophysics. But it didn’t get easier. Through an honest rendering of Robert’s relationships, Hobbs' compelling recounting of events encompasses the most enduring conflicts in America: race, class, drugs, community, imprisonment, education, family, friendship and love.

The lecture series in presented in part by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and sponsored by John and Francie Pepper. In addition to Jeff Hobbs’ lecture on October 15, the public will have the opportunity to hear from three notable authors including; historian Eric Foner on December 1, 2015, Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Trinity College, Christopher Hagar January 13, 2016 and novelist and essayist, Marilynne Robinson on March 16, 2016. Click here for ticket information.

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 

 

Images: Cover image and author headshot.

Related Content: Picture FreedomPower of the Vote.

More authored by Assia: King Records now a Cincinnati landmark, On 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

Saturday, October 3, 2015 - 10:25

Connecting Art with History: The Freedom Center Team Visits the Contemporary Art Center

This past Monday was our first ever all staff visit to the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC).  At the insistence of our President, Dr. CG Newsome, we were there to experience Titus Kaphar’s The Vesper Project and we were not disappointed.

 

The Vesper Project is made up of several large installations, a few photographs and then an additional drawing series called the Jerome Project. The large installations caught the initial attraction of my group because they are slightly interactive. You are invited to walk through a refabricated 19th century home, look through a window to an unusual portrait on the opposite wall and walk around a wall of objects that provokes many thoughts. The Vesper Project is based upon a fictional 19th century African American family who had been passing as white until their youngest daughter outs them as black. To be afforded certain luxuries and rights in life and then for those to be taken away because of your skin color, something unchangeable, is a devastating blow to this fictional family, but not so far removed from the lived realities of people that have “passed” throughout history. The home in the exhibit, as well as the supplementary surrounding structures, invite the viewer into the mind of the patriarch of a family whose whole world is falling apart as he deals with ideas of loss, identity, memory, history and family.  It is not a coincidence that these are some of the same concepts that we discuss daily, here at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

 

 

Revelations spread through our tour group at the realization that contemporary art and history do not have to operate individually but that they can both speak to one another and provide a chance for meaningful dialogue through diverse modes of presentation. Looking at the art of Titus Kaphar helped us to have conversations about what it means to not know your family’s history or to have a history or story ripped away from you. Being in the galleries of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center helps us have conversations about what it meant to be taken away from your family and sold into slavery and what exactly a “black identity” was and is today. Essentially, we are asking and answering the same questions through different but equally important lenses. Through our visit to the CAC, we were inspired to have more collaborative interactions with the other cultural arts organizations in our city because we can support the same kinds of conversations and important dialogue even though our presentation styles may be different. This united front on our part, creates a more powerful impact on visitors that can encourage conversations not only within the Freedom Center and the CAC, but beyond the walls of either institution and into the community where conversations turn into instruments of change.

 

Brittany Vernon

IMLS Coca Cola Museum Studies Apprentice

Related Content: Mascots, Kin Killin' Kin

Images from top to bottom: Image of artist, Titus Kaphar, Detail image of The Vesper Project instillation inside CAC and Freedom Center Team on tour at the CAC.

Be sure to follow the Youth Docents on Twitter, @FCYouthDocents! Click here to learn more about the Youth Docent Program at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and how to apply. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015 - 00:00

On This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation

On this day in 1862, the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, stating that “if the rebels did not end the fighting and rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in the rebellious states would be free.”  The Confederate Army did not concede and three months later, on the Emancipation Proclamation was issued.

The Beginning of Social Justice, Cynthia H. Catlin from And Still We Rise.

When the Civil War began in 1861, President Lincoln sought to preserve the Union rather than end the system of enslavement. Lincoln knew that neither the Union nor the Border States would support abolition as a final outcome, however, by mid-1862, the President was convinced that abolition was the correct military and moral strategy. To solve this dilemma, in early 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation was issued but it only freed enslaved persons in states that had already seceded from the Union. At the time, it was thought of as an effective war measure that would cripple the Confederacy, which had used enslaved laborers to support the Confederate Army. However, the Emancipation also set the stage for conversations on the future of human bondage in the United States and would dramatically alter the lives of African Americans once the Civil War ended.

This week, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center president Dr. C.G. Newsome and associate professor of history at Northern Kentucky University Dr. Eric Jackson discussed the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and the Emancipation Proclamation on WVXU’s Cincinnati Edition, highlighting both documents’ place next to America’s founding documents. You can listen to the full episode here.  The Emancipation Proclamation is on display now through August 2016, click here to plan your visit.

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: Picture FreedomPower of the Vote.

More authored by Assia:  Connect with History Labor Day Weekend, 50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015 - 00:00

52 Anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing

Today is the anniversary of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, where four little girls, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley and Addie Mae Collins, died in an attack orchestrated and carried out by members of the Ku Klux Klan.  An attack, as described by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., that was "one of the most vicious and tragic crimes ever perpetuated against humanity."  Over 50 years later and just months after the horrific church shootings in Charleston, we, as a nation, still have more work ahead of us.

To commemorate the anniversary, the city of Birmingham is presenting a week of activities called Empowerment Week, where the entire community is asked to focus on “service, kindness and community impact.” At 10:22 a.m. bells will ring in Birmingham at the exact time of the bombing in 1963, followed by a wreath laying at 10:40 a.m.

Birmingham Bombing, by Sylvia Hernandez. Quilt featured in the traveling exhibit, And Still We Rise.

The bombing marked another major turning point of the Civil Rights Movement, which, paired with the assignation of President Kennedy, moved a grieving nation to support the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, signed into law that summer by President Johnson. Passage of the Voting Rights Act would follow in 1965. The special anniversary exhibition celebrating the Voting Rights Act, Power of the Vote, explores the history of voting rights in America, beginning from the Reconstruction Era to present day. See and experience this powerful exhibition before it closes September 26.  

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs? Click here to plan your visit. 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: Picture FreedomPower of the Vote.

Image: Victims of the bombing listed clockwise from top left: Addie Mae Collins (aged 14), Cynthia Wesley (aged 14), Carole Robertson (aged 14) and Denise McNair (aged 11).

More authored by Assia:  Connect with History Labor Day Weekend, 50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

 

Thursday, September 3, 2015 - 15:22

Connect with History Labor Day Weekend: September 6 is the Final Sunday of Seasonal Hours!

The summer is winding down and schools around the region are already back in session, which means that Labor Day Weekend is the last opportunity to take advantage of seasonal Sunday hours. The long weekend is also the perfect time to engage with history and learn more about America’s struggle for inclusive freedom in three powerful and thought- provoking exhibitions: The Emancipation Proclamation, Diversity in Baseball and Power of the Vote, all located on the third floor of the museum.

This week, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center announced the extended run of the popular exhibition highlighting baseball’s game changers, Diversity in Baseball, now open through September 26. The immersive exhibit celebrates players who have broken barriers and changed the game, making it more inclusive and reflective of America’s diverse make-up.

The extension of the exhibition comes in the wake of Major League Baseball’s powerful summit presented in partnership with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, entitled A Social Justice Dialogue of Faith, Community and Baseball. The summit was recorded and is available for viewing on mlb.com.

During Cincinnati’s All Star Summer, the Center welcomed baseball fans from around the region as well as legends of the game, including Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, Ed Lucas,  Major League Baseball’s ambassador of inclusion, Billy Bean and daughter of the late Jackie Robinson, Sharon Robinson. Both Robinson and Bean signed panels within the exhibit.

In addition to the summit in the Harriet Tubman Theater, Ed Lucas spoke to a captive audience on the mound inside the exhibit about his decades-long career in baseball as a blind broadcaster. His new novel, Seeing Home: The Ed Lucas Story, details some of the stories he shared on the mound of overcoming obstacles and interviewing some of the greatest players off all time, many of whom were barrier breakers themselves.

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center highlighted with special programming and exhibition, Power of the Vote. The exhibit explores the history of voting rights in America and reveals the stories of lesser -known history of the key players in the struggle for voting rights. This exhibition is perfect for students and teachers alike!

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs? Click here to view our seasonal hours.  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: Picture FreedomPower of the Vote.

More authored by Assia: 50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Images: The Eternal Flame, located on the third floor, Billy Bean signing his panel in Diversity in Baseball and Bridges to Cross March, photo by Katie Johnstone. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2015 - 16:38

Remembering Louis Stokes

Today we share our condolences with the family and friends of Louis Stokes and echo the sentiments of Rep. John Lewis, "he [Stokes] was a gifted public servant who brought dignity to the office and contributed to the public good of the entire nation."

Louis Stokes was a trail blazer, an icon and a friend of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. He was Ohio's first African American U.S. Congressman, serving 15 terms, headed the Congressional Black Caucus and was the first African American on the House Appropriations Committee. A bill cosponsored by Stokes and then Representative Rob Portman to preserve Underground Railroad sites in 1998 paved the way for the founding and development of our institution on the banks of the Ohio River. We honor Stokes' legacy, thank him for his public service and for representing and advocating for equal opportunity for all Americans.

 

 

Thursday, August 20, 2015 - 15:42

USA Today picks the John Rankin House as the "hidden gem" to visit in Ohio

A few days ago, USA Today posted an article about hidden gems to visit in each of the 50 states. The John Rankin House, a once very active Underground Railroad station was chosen as Ohio’s “hidden gem.” The home, located in Ripley, Ohio sits on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River. It was built in 1825 and belonged to abolitionist John Rankin, his wife Jean and their thirteen children. The family risked their lives to help free more than 2,000 escaped slaves.

This National Historic Landmark is one of the best-documented Underground Railroad stations. You can take a guided tour of the home and learn how the Rankin family, their neighbors and other nearby communities helped fugitives escape from slavery. During the tour you also learn about Ohio’s role in the abolitionist movement and how it set the stage for the end of slavery as well as the Civil Rights movement.

While visiting the Rankin House you can also enjoy the historic town of Ripley. You can walk Front Street and enjoy the sites and sounds of the Ohio River Scenic Byway. There are beautiful historic homes to see and great local restaurants to enjoy.

 

-Katie Johnstone
Marketing and Communications Intern

Related Content: Rev. John and Jean Rankin

More authored by Katie: World Day Against Trafficking In Persons,#FlameFriday:Toni Stone,  Planning your visit Friday, July 10Misty Copland- First African-American woman promoted at the American Ballet Theatre#FlameFriday: Remembering Officer Kim, and Freedmen's Bureau Indexing Campaign

 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 16:39

International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition

Today the United Nations observes International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition. The day is meant to remind people of the tragedy of the transatlantic slave trade and give people a chance to think about the historic causes, the methods and the consequences of the slave trade. This day also pays tribute to those who worked hard to abolish slave trade and slavery throughout the world.

Here at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center you can learn about several people who fought to abolish slavery, like Quakers Catharine and Levi Coffin. The Coffins helped thousands of fugitive slaves to safety in Newport (now Fountain City), Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio through the Underground Railroad.

The coffins became abolitionists when they moved to Newport and overheard stories about fugitive slaves in hiding. Many of the escaped slaves were often recaptured, so Levi Coffin and his wife decided they were going to help. Levi Coffin spread the word to the black community that he would hide slaves in his home. During the winter of 1826-1827 the Coffins provided shelter, transportation, food and clothing for the runaways. Word got around of what the Coffins were doing, and many in the town opposed to their actions. However, there were a few who were willing to risk their lives and join the fight. The coffins worked with the other abolitionists to create a more formal route that could move the slaves smoothly from stop to stop.

In 1839, the Coffins had a two-story, eight-room brick house built with several modifications to create better hiding places. The home became a point of convergence for three major escape routes from Madison and New Albany, Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio. It is said that they helped as many as 2,000 runaways during the years they lived in Newport.

By 1847 the Coffins left Newport and moved to Cincinnati. They moved houses several times, until they found a home that could be used to continue their efforts of helping fugitive slaves. The large home they purchased had rooms that were rented out for boarding. With the constant flow of guests coming in and out, it was a perfect cover to create a station for the Underground Railroad. The Coffins continued to hide, feed and clothe runaways. Catharine Coffin started creating costumes in order to better disguise them. She dressed them as cooks, butlers and other household workers.  

As time went on, the Coffins focused on other ways of freeing slaves, but never gave up being abolitionists. They are known for leading so many slaves to freedom. Luckily, they were never caught for their great acts and passed away in the late 1800s due to natural causes. 

-Katie Johnstone
Marketing and Communications Intern

Image One: Levi and Catharine Coffin
Image Two: The Levi Coffin house used to hide fugitive slaves. 

More authored by Katie: World Day Against Trafficking In Persons,#FlameFriday:Toni Stone,  Planning your visit Friday, July 10Misty Copland- First African-American woman promoted at the American Ballet Theatre#FlameFriday: Remembering Officer Kim, and Freedmen's Bureau Indexing Campaign
 

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