This Wednesday, July 15, former Auschwitz guard Oskar Gröning was sentenced to four years in prison for being an accessory to the deaths of 300,000 people in “what could be one of the last big Holocaust trials.” The 94-year-old German has been on trial in the northern German city of Lüneburg since April.
The death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau in Nazi-occupied Poland claimed the lives of 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, during its operation from 1942 to 1945. Gröning’s trial focused mostly on the period from May to July 1944, during which 137 trains brought 425,000 people to Auschwitz and at least 300,000 were killed in the gas chambers.
During the trial proceedings, Gröning testified that he sorted through the belongings of arriving Jews after they went through the selection process that ended with many being sent to their deaths in the gas chambers. His task was to find valuables, particularly banknotes, to help fund the Nazi regime.
The trial speaks to a question that courts have grappled with since the end of the Second World War: how much guilt the legal system can place on people who acted as small cogs within massive human rights violations like the Holocaust. In 2011, German courts set a precedent that death camp guards can be charged as an accessory to murders committed there, even if that guard is not linked to any specific death. Gröning said he accepts moral guilt but said early on in the trial that he would leave it up to the court to decide his legal guilt.
Earlier this year, the Freedom Center hosted Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later, which featured the stories of two survivors of the death camp: Werner Coppel and Bella Ouziel. Auschwitz’s history of systemic and organized genocide provides a start warning and call to action for those today to stand up against injustice, inhumanity and genocide.
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More authored by Elizabeth: Mason man recalls Tiananmen Square, Dr. Newsome speaks at international conference in Paris, Warren County Underground Railroad station honored with historical marker, NHL selects first Chinese player, 14th Amendment Ratified on this Day, 1868
On July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, granting citizenship and its benefits to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” – a right that was previously denied to formerly enslaved persons.
Although the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment ended slavery, at the end of the Civil War people still had a lot of questions about what would happen to those who only recently gained their freedom. Along with the 13th and 15th Amendments – collectively known as the “Reconstruction Amendments” – the 14th Amendment widely expanded the rights of former slaves in the United States.
The authors of the amendment took care to ensure that those civil rights would remain protected, forbidding states from denying anyone “life, liberty or property, without due process of law” or the “equal protection of the laws.”
Commonly referenced by that second phrase, the 14th Amendment has played a key role in many important Supreme Court cases that have shaped the past two centuries.
Brown v. Board of Education (1954), for example, struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine – which structured the Jim Crow south – because it violated the “equal protection” clause of the 14th Amendment. Based on cases against segregated schools in Kansas, South Carolina, Virginia and Delaware, Brown challenged the widely enforced Jim Crow laws that, here, limited black children’s access to the same quality education that their white peers experienced. The court ruled that, even if the schools had access to the same tangible factors (like pencils, science lab equipment, or teachers), the act of separation itself was an act of discrimination that violated the 14th Amendment.
The amendment was a milestone in the history of abolition and civil rights in the United States and has continued to protect people from discrimination throughout the decades. Because of the 14th Amendment, our Constitution upholds the idea that “all” – not just white males – “are created equal”. Learn more about the 14th amendment in From Slavery to Freedom, located on the third floor.
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Photo: Freedom Center exhibit From Slavery to Freedom explores the 14th Amendment in its historical context.
More authored by Elizabeth: Mason man recalls Tiananmen Square, Dr. Newsome speaks at international conference in Paris, Warren County Underground Railroad station honored with historical marker, NHL selects first Chinese player
Andong “Misha” Song, 18, made history last week as the first Chinese player in the National Hockey League after being selected by the New York Islanders with the No. 172 pick on Saturday, June 27. One sports official suggested Song might become “the Yao Ming of Chinese ice hockey.”
The Beijing native has been playing since he was 6 years old, when his mother suggested he try it. He fell in love with it, and his talent was spotted at a young age. His family moved to Canada to help him pursue his dream, as there were few resources for hockey players in China at the time, where some coaches were skeptical at first about a Chinese player.
Since then, Song has starred in games locally and internationally. He currently plays as a defenseman for the Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, and next season he will play for the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. For the past two years, he has played for China at the IIHF Division II-B World Under-18 Championship, this year as the team captain.
Ice hockey is a young but already popular sport in China, where 1,500 players play on nearly 100 youth teams in Beijing alone. Parents of these young players have expressed hope that Song’s achievements will boost the popularity of hockey further and that he will be an inspiration for future players. Sports officials hope that the NHL draft will help with China’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
"Hopefully what I want to do is rally people behind me,” Song said in an interview with the NHL. “Not focus on myself but do something good for Chinese hockey."
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Photo: Song poses after being drafted by the New York Islanders. Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Misty Copland, 32, has become the first African-American female to be promoted to the highest rank at the American Ballet Theatre. She is a 19-year veteran of the company, being promoted from a soloist to a principal dancer. The company has been around for 75 years, making this a huge accomplishment for Copeland.
Copeland was born in Kansas City, Missouri and raised in San Pedro, California. She began ballet at the age of 13 and studied at the Lauridsen Ballet Centre, San Francisco Ballet School and American Balley Theatre’s Summer Intensive. Copeland joined the American Ballet Theatre as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2001 and was appointed a soloist in August 2007.
In the past year, Copeland has danced a variety of leading roles. Her performances have become events, drawing in large and diverse crowds. She has performed at many prestigious venues including, the Metropolitan Opera House, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. Recently she starred in “Swan Lake,” becoming the first African-American to do so with the Ballet Theater at the Metropolitan Opera House.
Copeland has also drawn attention outside the world of ballet, appearing in and being the face of national campaigns, including a commercial for Diet Dr. Pepper and Prince’s 2010 tour. In 2014 she became the first ballet dancer to appear in an Under Armour ad, which had more than four million views on YouTube in a week. Last year, Copland was named of one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and was featured on one of the covers for the issue.
Though her promotion and recent fame has been celebrated by many, it has also raised questions about why African-American dancers, mainly women, remain so underrepresented at top ballet companies in today’s society. Several dance companies and schools, including the Ballet Theater, have begun new efforts to increase diversity in classic ballet, however doing so will take years.
Copeland strength, talent and determination has opened doors for many women of color to follow in her footsteps. In additional to her many accomplishments, she has become involved in the American Ballet Theatre’s Project Plié, an initiative to draw more diverse dancers into elite ballet.
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Image: Misty Copeland performing in "Swan Lake" at the Metropolitan Opera House. Photo credit: eurweb.com.
Artworks, a non-profit arts organization, is celebrating their 100th mural since their program began in 2007. Several murals have been painted throughout the summer, but the 100th mural was specifically dedicated to honor the late Ezzard Charles. Charles was a World Heavyweight champion, inductee of the International Boxing Hall, a jazz musician and a Cincinnati native that was widely respected. Christine Carli, the director of communications at Artworks, said that Charles was chosen because of his “rich history in sports and Cincinnati and because he has so many ties to so many famous Cincinnatians, including Theodore Berry.”
The mural is located on 1537 Republic Street and painting began in June. The mural is to be completed sometime this month and there will be a celebration for its dedication. The mural will be titled, The Cincinnati Cobra and will be a part of the Cincinnati Legends murals.
The lead artist working on the Charles mural will be Jason Snell from the design house, We have Become Vikings. Last year he designed the Cincinnati Legends mural that was dedicated to Henry Holtgrewe. The Charles mural will look more figurative and less illustrative compared to the Holtgrewe mural, which can be seen on Vine between 13th and 14th street.
If you are interested in learning more about Artworks murals you can participate in their weekend walking tours. They are led by Artworks volunteers and young Apprentice mural painters. The tours are meant to educate and entertain by sharing the inside stories on how the large-scale murals came to life. Tickets can be purchased on Artworks website.
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Image: A preview of what The Cincinnati Cobra mural will look like. Photo credit: cincinnati.com.
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:
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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This website was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program