Voices

Freedom Center Voices

Monday, June 22, 2015 - 00:00

Freedmen’s Bureau Indexing Campaign

Last Friday, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center hosted the Freedmen’s Bureau Indexing Campaign announcement. FamilySearch, the largest genealogy organization in the world, announced the digital release of over 4 million Freedmen’s Bureau historical records and the launch a nationwide volunteer indexing effort. The event was held in the Harriet Tubman Theater and a livestream was broadcast from the main press event that took place at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. There were several speakers at the event in Los Angeles, including Todd Christofferson, senior-level leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Sherri Camp, vice president for geneaology of the Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society.

Following the live stream, visitors in the Harriet Tubman Theater had the opportunity to discuss their efforts with FamilySearch and hear from:

  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center vice president and provost, Dr. Michael Battle
  • Afro-American Historical & Genealogical Society vice president for history, Gene Stephenson
  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center John Parker Library director, Darrell Wolff
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Cincinnati East Ohio Stake president, Joseph W. Bradley 

It took nearly ten years for the records to be digitized and now the hope is to have all the names indexed in the next six to nine months. If you would like to help with this nationwide indexing campaign or learn more about your family history, you can right here at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center! The John Parker Library offers free family history resources and is located on the fourth floor of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Volunteers working in the library can help you join the indexing campaign and help you learn more about your ancestry.

The John Parker Library is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. -  4 p.m. To learn more about the Freedmen's Bureau Indexing Campaign, visit discoverfreedmen.org.

Katie Johnstone
Marketing & Commuications Intern  

Friday, June 12, 2015 - 07:00

Warren Co. Underground Railroad station honored with historical marker

Henry Thomas and Nancy Butterworth have been honored with a new Ohio historical marker at the site of their mid-1800s home in southern Warren County.

Their family contributed their land in Hamilton Township as a station on the Underground Railroad and helped hundreds of fugitive slaves fleeing north in the decades before the Civil War. Slaves would find shelter in a saferoom in their home on the banks of the Little Miami River before moving onward to Lebanon or Clinton County.

The Butterworths’ two-story house at 9299 Sibcy Road still stands today, and on Saturday, June 6 a historical marker was unveiled at the site with Butterworth family descendants and Friends of the 20 Mile House present at the ceremony. The marker is near mile marker 39 on the Little Miami Scenic Trail.

"Southern Ohio played a vital role in the success of the Underground Railroad in helping enslaved people reach freedom, and Ohioans did so at great risk to themselves," said the Local History Office at the Ohio History Connection. "Markers are a reminder that history always happens in a place and that, at least in Ohio, there are a lot of those places!  We hope that this marker for Butterworth Station will make the contributions of Ohioans more visible to the public, so that we can be inspired by the actions and sacrifices of those that travelled on and supported the Underground Railroad."

The Butterworths were Quaker abolitionists who moved north to states that outlawed slavery, and the family’s contributions to the Underground Railroad didn’t stop with them. Henry Thomas’s brother William also sheltered slaves in his nearby barn, and Nancy’s cousin Levi Coffin was known as the “President of the Underground Railroad” for his work in Indiana and Cincinnati.

For more information on Underground Railroad sites in Ohio and the Cincinnati area, check out this list.

Elizabeth Cychosz
Marketing & Communications Intern

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 00:00

Freedom Center Named one of Midwest Living's "50 Midwest Museums We Love"

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has been named one of Midwest Living’s “50 Midwest Museums We Love.” Midwest Living, whose readership reaches 4.1 million people across 12 states, noted the Center as a “multilevel museum [that] captures the history of slavery and the struggle for freedom. One of the most powerful of the state-of-the-art exhibits is a slave pen [found] on a Kentucky farm. The sobering messages aren’t easy to hear, but they are lessons to remember.”

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was the only Cincinnati museum to make the list and was included alongside four other prestigious institutions and museums in Ohio including; the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) in Columbus, Ohio, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

Jess Hoffert, staff editor at Midwest Living, added that, “On a previous visit, we especially enjoyed the powerful “Brothers of the Borderland” film, which dramatizes the journey across the Ohio River to freedom.  One of the many components that sets this museum apart is its emphasis on storytelling.”

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center received this recognition during the latter half of its year-long, tenth anniversary celebration, which began with a week-long celebration culminating in the International Freedom Conductor Awards Gala, honoring President Lech Walesa of Poland and former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa last August. In addition to the gala, the anniversary features special exhibitions highlighting diverse struggles for freedom including: Senzeni Na? Selected Photographs from Mandela! Struggle and Triumph, Mandela: A Living Legacy, Power of the Vote, Picture Freedom and Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later. The final anniversary exhibition, Diversity in Baseball, opens June 26 and celebrates baseball’s game changers, who have broken barriers to make America’s pastime more reflective of America’s diverse make-up. 

Click here to view the fill list of museums that made the top 50. 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 

More authored by Assia: Mother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Tuesday, June 9, 2015 - 08:00

Dr. Newsome speaks at international conference in Paris

Cincinnati has been recognized as a resource for the international museum community, and National Underground Railroad Freedom Center president Dr. Clarence Newsome had the chance to be part of that honor.

Dr. Newsome traveled to Paris last week as part of a delegation of Cincinnati museum leaders attending the International Council on Museum’s (ICOM) annual meeting.

ICOM was considering Cincinnati and Kyoto, Japan as the top possible locations for its triennial General Conference in 2019 – considered to be the Olympics of the museum world. Ohio ranks 5th in the nation for the number of museums, featuring about 1,500, and nearly 100 museums are in the Cincinnati area alone.

On June 2, Dr. Newsome and other leaders presented on their proposed meeting, which would have had the theme “Curate – Connect – Change.” Cincinnati’s proposal stated, “Today museums are called to go far beyond the role of managing and explaining or to ‘Curate’. Indeed they are called to be agents of connecting and changing people, communities and the world.” In addition to the Freedom Center, meeting attendees would have easy access to Cincinnati Museum Center, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Taft Museum of Art, the Contemporary Arts Center, the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, and many other museums around the region.

In his portion of the presentation, Dr. Newsome emphasized that the National Underground Freedom Center goes beyond the traditional curation techniques of managing and explaining. Instead, he said, the museum tells the stories of real people and the triumph of the human spirit; telling about Freedom Heroes produces meaning to bring about positive change in our world today.

Unfortunately, Cincinnati was not selected. The General Conference would have brought an anticipated 3,000 museum representatives from more than 100 countries to our city.

“Presenting at the ICOM conference was a great opportunity for Cincinnati’s museum community to be part of a larger international dialogue on the future of museums,” Dr. Newsome said.

ICOM is an international group of museums and museum professionals with more than 35,000 members in 136 countries. Click here for more information.

Elizabeth Cychosz
Marketing & Communications Intern

Monday, June 8, 2015 - 10:00

Mason man recalls Tiananmen Square

Guiru Zhang of Mason recently wrote in to the Cincinnati Enquirer, recalling his memories of living in Beijing during the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.

He wrote in honor of the 26th anniversary of the massacre, which was part of the Chinese government’s crackdown of the pro-democracy movement of the late 1980s. For weeks in spring 1989, demonstrators, mostly students, protested in the square for freedom of speech, freedom of the press and government accountability, among other democratic concepts. On June 4, 1989, troops advanced on the square and opened fire. Estimates of the death toll range from China’s official count of 246 to 2,600. Click here for more on the history of the massacre.

USA Today reports that roughly 100,000 people participated in a remembrance vigil in Hong Kong last Thursday, June 4.

Zhang remembers studying at home on that morning in 1989, his junior high school having closed in response to the martial law intended to stop the protests at Tiananmen Square. At 10 a.m., he says, he heard gunshots a few blocks away in the direction of his younger brother’s grade school, which was still open. He describes how he crouched on his balcony to avoid stray bullets and watched anxiously for a sign of his brother. Half an hour later, his brother and two friends arrived, panting, at their house.

Zhang says memories of that day and knowledge of what has happened after have inspired him to take a strong stance in favor of human rights. He identifies harassment, imprisonment, torture and organ harvesting in China as unacceptable practices that continue on into the present.

“As long as I still have a voice,” Zhang wrote, “I will keep fighting for human rights that have been long overdue for the Chinese people.”

China does not recognize the massive death toll of the massacre and tightened security in the weeks leading up to the anniversary. The White House issued a statement last week supporting “the basic freedoms the protestors at Tiananmen Square sought” and called for China to account for the violence of the massacre.  Click here to learn more about responses to this year’s anniversary.

Click here to read Zhang’s article at The Cincinnati Enquirer’s website.

Elizabeth Cychosz
Marketing & Communications Intern

Friday, May 15, 2015 - 00:00

I Hear Music in the Air, Inc: 2015 Legends Ball

I Hear Music in the Air, Inc. announced this week the awardees of the 2015 Legends Ball. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is one of many organizations and individuals in the tri-state region to be honored during the evening’s event, for exemplary work in history education and preservation. President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Clarence G. Newsome, PhD,  will accept the award on behalf of the organization.

The 14th Annual Legends Ball is the culminating event in the weekend-long I Hear Music in the Air Conference, celebrating leaders in four main categories: the gospel music industry, community leaders, educators and thought-leaders and global influencers. Throughout the weekend, thousands of people from across the country will gather in Cincinnati to connect and learn more about the Gospel music industry.

The conference will include something for everyone – a concert featuring regional and national artists including Pastor Donnie McClurkin, Israel Houghton, William McDowell and William Murphy, a master class focused on navigating the Gospel music industry, a new artist showcase and Bishop Hezekiah Walker’s Choir Fest. Sunday’s ball will feature a powerful keynote address from Pastor Charles Jenkins’ and selections from musical guest Brian Courtney Wilson.

The 14th Annual Legends Ball is presented by I Hear Music in the Air, Inc. and is open to the public. Tickets are $60. The event is black tie and will be held at the Sharonville Convention Center. Doors open at 5 p.m. followed by the program at 5:30 p.m. For more information on the I Hear Music in the Air Conference and this year’s honorees visit http://www.ihearmusicintheair.com/ihmconference/

 

Thursday, May 7, 2015 - 00:00

The National Youth Summit 2015

“Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope--some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity [and declare] and unconditional war on poverty in America…It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won.” –President Lyndon B. Johnson

On April 28, local students participated in the 2015 Youth Summit, a national conversation on President Johnson’s War on Poverty, led by The National Museum of American History. Many of the programs that the War on Poverty created--including Headstart, Medicare and Medicaid--are familiar to us today. A group of local and national experts joined the conversation virtually including: Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Professor Peter Edelman, Melissa Boteach, Michael Tanner, Sherman B. Bradley, Kevin Finn and John Keuffer.

Students gathered in the Everyday Freedom Heroes Gallery to learn what poverty looks like today, if another War on Poverty is needed and what can young people do about the issue in their community. Click here to learn more about the annual Youth Summit and view current bios.

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs? Click here to sign up for eNews and updates. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @FreedomCenter, and on Facebook for more historical posts and images. 

Assia Johnson
Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Image: The 2015 Youth Summit in the Everyday Freedom Heroes Gallery

More authored by Assia: Mother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

 

Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 17:22

Cincinnatus Association Announces New Award Honoring Donald and Marian Spencer

[Updated ]

On May 5, The Cincinnatus Association announced a new award honoring Cincinnati Civil Rights icons, Donald and Marian Spencer. The Spencer's, known locally as the “First Couple of Civil Rights” in Cincinnati, will have their legacy immortalized in three separate awards: one for a nonprofit, for-profit and an individual, for “exhibiting conspicuous and enduring contributions to creating greater inclusion and promoting diversity in our community.

As many Cincinnatians know, the Spencer’s lives were filled with firsts. Donald was the first African American on the Cincinnati Park Board; the first African American broker on the Cincinnati Board of Realtors; the first African American Trustee at Ohio University. Marian integrated Coney Island so her children could swim in the pool; she was the first African American President of Woman’s City Club; the first African American Councilwoman and many other amazing accomplishments which we will highlight that evening.

Additionally, the Cincinnatus Association celebrated its own 95 years of civic activism and community improvement, including its support of groundbreaking efforts in diversity and inclusion. Click here to learn more about the signature event.

 

Image via Cincinnati.com.

Monday, May 4, 2015 - 15:15

Fair Trade Gift Ideas for Mother's Day

Still trying to figure out what to get mom this Mother's Day? The Freedom Center Gift Shop is full of great gift ideas, including beautiful handmade, fair trade accessories and jewelry that both celebrate mothers and elevate women and girls around the world.

This month's featured fair trade items come to us 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.

Baskets of Cambodia was formed in 1996 in war-torn Cambodia, in villages surrounding the famous temples of Angkor Watt. Their philosophy is to create high quality products that lend pride and self-esteem to all of people involved. In addition to finding a beautiful gift for mom that also empowers women and girls, members of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center receive an additional 10% off their purchase.

If you're looking for a meaningful family experience this Mother's Day weekend, bring your family in to see powerful and thought-provoking temporary exhibitions discussing civil and human rights open this spring:

UNLOCKING THE GATES OF AUSCHWITZ 70 YEARS LATER

OPEN NOW THROUGH MAY 27

Follow the journeys of local Auschwitz survivors, Bella Ouziel and Werner Coppel and explore how life and the spirit of resistance continued amidst the horrors of Auschwitz. 

POWER OF THE VOTE

In commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Power of the Vote, explores and chronicles the history of voting rights in America from the Reconstruction Era to the Civil Rights Movement to present day. 

Click here to view our seasonal hours and plan your visit.

Want the latest on upcoming special exhibitions, events and programs? Click here to sign up for eNews and updates. 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: The Freedom Center Gift Shop display, featuring Baskets of Cambodia and Nomi Network accessories and clothes. 

More authored by Assia:  Flame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 00:00

Docent Stories: James Brock, Celebrating 10 Years as a NURFC Docent

When I first learned of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC), I was newly retired and looking for ways to give back to the community. During that time, Candace Simmons was the volunteer coordinator at the NURFC and she invited me to be part of a committee discussing how volunteers would be an integral and essential part of the new center’s success. After learning more, I knew that this new role was right for me and became the volunteer stage manager for the NURFC ground-breaking ceremony, where I had the pleasure of escorting First Lady Laura Bush and Muhammad Ali to the podium to address the crowd. 

Needless to say, my volunteer commitment was strengthened.  This newly enhanced commitment followed me as I transitioned to become a member of the inaugural docent (exhibit guide) class under the management of Chris Shires.  The class was composed of some of the same docents who are still volunteering at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center today. It didn’t take long for me to realize the value of my volunteer commitment to the NURFC.  For me, it reflects a sense of belonging. For them, I believe it reflects their commitment to offer our visitors knowledge that can light up their lives, and at the same time, challenge them to become a light for others.

Through structured development and meaningful community experiences, I can explore and understand different cultures and educate our guests and visitors.  One such model is the current special exhibition, Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later. Such stories are absolutely necessary, but are so infrequently told.  As a docent of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, I’m inspired and believe that I can make a difference in the world and in our community.

James Brock, docent, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Image: James Brock touring a group on the 2nd floor in front of the Slave Pen

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