Our History

Our History

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a museum of conscience, an education center, a convener of dialogue, and a bea­con of light for inclusive freedom around the globe.

Our physical location in downtown Cincinnati is just a few steps from the banks of the Ohio River, the great natural barrier that separated the slave states of the South from the free states of the North. Since opening in 2004, we have filled a substantial void in our nation’s cultural heritage. Rooted in the stories of the Underground Railroad, we illuminate the true meaning of inclusive freedom by presenting permanent and special exhibits that inspire, public programming that provoke dialogue and action, and educational resources that equip modern abolitionists.


The concept of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center first proposed.


14,000 attend groundbreaking.


20,000 attend opening celebration.


280,000 attend in first year from all 50 states and 35 countries.


Two National Endowment for Humanities grants awarded.


Merger with Cincinnati Museum Center.


Fiscal year closes with balanced budget.


Celebrated 15-year anniversary.


Woodrow Keown, Jr. named President and Chief Operating Officer


Our mission is to reveal stories of freedom’s heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, challenging and inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom today.