Voices - Education


Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 4:39pm

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

Thursday, July 23, 2015 - 12:25pm

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons

In 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations came together to dedicate a day to raising awareness about human trafficking and the situations of the victims involved and to promote and protect their rights. Today, July 30, is the day the General Assembly chose to make World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. The meeting also resulted in the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which gives grants to non-governmental organizations that provide direct assistance to victims from human trafficking.  

Human Trafficking is an unfortunate on-going issue that is happening all over the world.  It is estimated that 2.5 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery. Men, women and children are being treated as slaves within their own country and abroad. Traffickers use violence, deception, threats, and other manipulative tactics to trap victims into horrific situations against their will. The brutality and injustice these victims face shatter their lives and dreams.

There are five different types of human trafficking that this day raises awareness for:

1. Forced Labor- when human beings are forced to work for no pay or under the threat of violence.
2. Bonded Labor/Debt Labor- slavery in which an individual is compelled to work in order to repay a debt and cannot leave until the debt has been paid off.
3. Sex Slavery- when women, men or children are exploited in the commercial sex industry, which may include: prostitution, pornography, erotic entertainment, strip clubs, online escort services, hostess clubs, residential brothels or fake massage parlors.
4. Child Slavery- when children under the age of 18 are forced into child labor, which could be debt bondage, armies, prostitution, domestic work or other forms of hazardous work.
5. Domestic Servitude- when slaves are forced to work in extremely hidden workplaces and have no option of leaving.

Human trafficking tends to be an issue most people do not know about or completely understand. You can help be a part of the fight against human trafficking by learning how you can raise awareness in your community and globally. You can also learn more about human trafficking at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center by visiting the exhibit Invisible: Slavery Today.

Image Credit: UN website

Related Content:  Invisible: Slavery Today

More authored by Katie: 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, July 22, 2015 - 4:09pm

The Youth Pages Toledo App

Human trafficking is a big issue in our country and that is the reason why The Youth Pages Toledo app was created. The app is geared towards children and teenagers because they are most vulnerable to human trafficking. It provides information about the warning signs of human trafficking, including drug abuse, homelessness or runaway status and control by a boyfriend or other individual. The app also provides information like phone numbers and websites on where the youth can go to get help for drugs, health, school, money and work.

The app was developed jointly by the University of Toledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute, the United Way of Greater Toledo, and the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition. It cost about $19,000 to develop and was heavily funded by grants from the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund and the Zonta Club of Toledo. The Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority plans to create signs to promote the app on all of their buses by Fall. They have also trained their drivers to recognize situations among their passengers and along routes that may suggest trafficking or related issues.

The app can be downloaded for free on both Android and iPhone devices with English and Spanish versions.

-Katie Johnstone
Marketing and Communications Intern

Related Content: End Slavery Now

More authored by Katie: #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, July 15, 2015 - 2:06pm

#FlameFriday: Toni Stone

On this day, July 17, 1921, batter Toni “tomboy” Stone, was born in Saint Paul Minnesota.  Stone was the first of three women to play professionally in the Negro Baseball Leagues.  As a child, Stone loved to play ball, but her parents did not approve of her behavior. They tried to solve the problem by having the local priest talk her out of liking baseball. However, by the end of their conversation, Father Keith had asked Stone to play on his team in the Catholic Midget League.

By age 15, Stone was working her way to earning a reputation as a very talented female baseball player. She started playing with the Twin City Colored Giants, a traveling men’s baseball club, and played for clubs competing in the men’s meat packing league. During the 1940s, Stone moved to San Francisco and shortly after started playing with an American Legion club. In 1949, she joined the San Francisco Sea Lions, a Minor League Negro Team and then played for the New Orleans Creole’s for a couple years as well. Playing for these teams gave her exposure to high profile managers and team owners.

In 1953, Stone’s talent finally paid off and she signed with the Indianapolis Clowns. She was brought onto the team to bring more fans to the games, but she worked hard to show she was there for more than that. Stone appeared in 50 games that year and got a hit off the legendary pitcher, Satchel Paige. She also had the chance to play with some excellent young players, including Willie Mays and Ernie Banks.

Stone’s time with the Clowns was brief, and playing as a woman was not always easy. She was insulted by fans and sometimes even teammates, who refused to accept that a female was competing in a “men’s” game. Her opponents showed her little respect as well, often coming hard at her on a slide with their spikes pointed up. After the Clowns, Stone was traded to the Kansas City Monarchs, but due to her age she was unable to play much longer. At the end of the year she retired from baseball, leaving behind an unforgettable history.

You can learn more about Toni Stone and many more game changers in baseball at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Diversity in Baseball, open now.


-Katie Johnstone
Marketing and Communications Intern

1. Toni Stone becomes the first female on an all-male baseball team. Credit: Big Head Books
2. Toni Stone shaking hands with legendary boxer Joe Lewis. Credit: Minnesota Historical Society
3. A record of the Indianapolis Clowns roster. Credit: Library of Congress
4. Toni Stone playing ball for the Creoles. Credit: Public Domain

More authored by Katie: 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, July 1, 2015 - 1:20pm

Misty Copland- First African-American woman promoted at the American Ballet Theatre

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.

Katie Johnstone
Marketing and Communications Intern

More authored by Katie: Planning your visit Friday, July 10#FlameFriday: Remembering Officer Kim, andFreedmen's Bureau Indexing Campaign.

Image: Misty Copeland performing in "Swan Lake" at the Metropolitan Opera House. Photo credit: eurweb.com.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 12:00am

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 1:47pm

Jimmie Lee Jackson: The Murder that Sparked the Selma to Montgomery Marches of 1965

On February 26, 1965, Alabama civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson died after he was brutally beaten and shot by Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler during a peaceful voting rights march on February 18, 1965. His death would spark the Selma to Montgomery marches, organized by Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Director of Direct Action James Bevel, in an effort to channel community outrage. The Selma to Montgomery marches, three in total, were organized as part of the Selma Voting Rights Movement, whose efforts led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 later that summer. 

The first march took place on Sunday, March 7, a day that would become known as Bloody Sunday, when 600 peaceful marchers were met by state and local law men with tear gas and billy clubs on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. Images of the violence in Alabama sparked national outrage and two days later, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a peaceful, symbolic march to the bridge.

After civil rights leaders received full protection to exercise their right to peacefully protest, the third and final march was held on Sunday, March 21, where over 3,000 marchers began the 54-mile trek to Montgomery. By the time they reached the steps of the state capitol on March 25, the number had grown to 25, 000.

In 2010, nearly 45 years after Jackson’s death, Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler was indicted and plead guilty to misdemeanor manslaughter. He was sentenced to six months in prison. You can learn more about the history of voting rights in Power of the Vote, open now.


-Assia Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, @FreedomCenter, and on Facebook for more historical posts and images.


Images: Alabama activist Jimmie Lee Jackson, image of portrait Jimmie Lee Jackson in All for the Cause and image of the voting machine inside Power of the Vote


Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 12:00am

Young, Powerful and Influential: How Malala Yousafzai is Changing the World

Earlier this month, Malala Yousafzai made history as the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Winner ever at age 17. Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education rights and has been engaged in activist work since she was only 11 years old!  She began by writing blogs for the BBC about her life under Taliban rule and her views on the importance of education for girls all over the world but especially in her country. After Yousafzai was profiled in a New York Times documentary, she rose to fame as a speaker promoting education for girls in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. Tragically, as Yousafzai was headed to school one morning, she was shot in the face by a gunman and remained in critical condition for several months. After rehabilitation, Yousafzai was healthy enough to continue her activist work, giving speeches and interviews for women’s education rights and her tragic story provided even more impetus for people to believe in and support her cause. What was called an assassination attempt on Yousafzai’s life caused the United Nations to launch a campaign calling for the education of all children worldwide and eventually led to Pakistan’s first Right to Education Bill.

Yousafzai has won numerous awards in addition to her most recent Nobel Peace Prize including being named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2013. Her story is one of inspiration, courage and perseverance. Yousafzai believed in her cause and did whatever she could to get her message out there. As a young girl, she may have thought that there was nothing she could do or that no one would listen to her message but even a small action such as writing a blog entry led to bigger and bigger platforms for her to advocate for equal educational opportunities for all children. Malala Yousafzai’s story proves that anyone and everyone has the power to fight for change and inclusive freedom for people all over the world. 


Brittany Vernon, IMLS Coca Cola Museum Studies Apprentice

Image: Malala Yousafzai, The Vancouver Sun.

Friday, August 29, 2014 - 12:33pm

Emmett Till: When America Could No Longer Ignore Jim Crow

On August 21, 1955, 14-year old Emmett Till traveled from his hometown of Chicago to visit his cousins in Money, Mississippi. On August 31, his mutilated corpse was pulled from the Tallahatchie River.

What happened in between was one of the most infamous instances of racial injustice in our nation’s history. Emmett Till was young, black and outgoing. He had been raised in Chicago, where race relations were not as tense as in the South and where black people did not live in constant fear of their white neighbors. When he went to visit his cousins in Money, he was thrown headfirst into a world of extreme social inequality, a world whose dangers he did not fully understand.

Emmett was resistant to the long list of rules and taboos that governed interactions between blacks and whites. He wowed the local children with stories of his white girlfriends back home, and he was brave enough to wolf whistle at the white woman working at the local general store. Stories of Emmett’s behavior toward Carolyn Bryant, the young woman at the general store, spread throughout Money. Her husband soon heard about the incident, and he decided he needed to teach Emmett a lesson.
Early in the morning on August 28, Roy Bryant and his half-brother J.W. Milam went to the home of Emmett’s uncle Mose Wright and demanded that Emmett come with them.

Three days later, Till’s body was found in the Tallahatchie River. His skull was deformed by a brutal beating, and one of his eyes had been gouged out. He had been shot and thrown into the river with a heavy fan blade attached to his neck with barbed wire.
Bryant and Milam were brought to court for Till’s kidnapping and murder, but after only an hour of deliberation, the all-white jury returned its verdict: not guilty. A year later, Bryant and Milam admitted to murdering Till in an interview with Look magazine.

In the days and weeks following Emmett Till’s murder, the act of violence was condemned by local media and white public figures. However, as the case received increasing national attention, Northern media outlets began attacking the climate of racial injustice in Mississippi, and locals began to indignantly defend Bryant and Milam. Black media outlets played a large role in expanding the notoriety of Till’s murder. When Jet magazine published a photo of Emmett’s disfigured remains, outrage spread throughout black communities nationwide.

The media coverage became a war between those calling for justice and those defending the status quo. No matter what side a person took, the battle could not be ignored because it had made its way into the family living room. Television made inequality visible in a way it never had been before. In a way, the tragedy served as a unifying force, concretizing and focusing the righteous anger of black people and other proponents of equality. This anger had been living beneath the surface and building in intensity for generations.  
Till’s murder is considered to have set the Civil Rights Movement in motion. When Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery city bus, she was thinking of Emmett Till, she has said. After decades of segregation, humiliation and fear, black people in the South had decided that enough was enough.

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer-- when a diverse group of students and young activists mobilized en masse to travel to the regions where racism ruled and fight for voting rights and desegregation. Freedom Summer showed us the important role young people play in inciting action and creating change. It demonstrated the power of a community united, even if that community is brought together not by geography but by a shared passion and common goal.

Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Movements had many successes: the end of de jure segregation, the reduction of discriminatory voting practices and the turning of national sentiment in favor of racial equality. However, the challenges faced by the participants in these movements are not unknown to those still fighting for racial equality today. Discrimination continues to fester in the workforce, the real estate market, the classroom, the voting booth and the newsroom. We still turn a blind eye to injustice. We still have a soft spot for the status quo. It was only one year ago when our Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This action has the potential to jeopardize disadvantaged Americans’ right to vote. 1964 was also the year that President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war of poverty in America, enacting legislation meant to tackle the national poverty rate. However, wealth disparity in our country is on the rise, and Americans living in poverty are disproportionately people of color. A discriminatory penile system and the “school to prison pipeline” have led to the mass incarceration of black men and permanent barriers to voting and employment.

Three months ago, the kidnapping of more than 300 young women in Nigeria by an extremist group led to international outrage and the explosion of the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. The kidnapping was an attack on the education of women. Now, as the outcry on social media dies down, the girls remain in captivity, and their families continue to fight for their safe return.  
There are more people enslaved today than at any other time in human history, but their suffering goes largely unheard.
Just like the murder of Emmett Till, these realities deserve our righteous anger.

While the fight against modern slavery is gaining momentum worldwide, it has not yet matched the Civil Rights Movement in terms of national attention, support and action. It may seem like that modern abolitionism has not yet had its Emmett Till, but in reality there have been millions of Emmett Tills, millions of young men and women who have had their lives taken and their freedom stolen. As long as slaves remain nameless faces and slavery a nebulous concept far from our everyday lives, we will continue being content with the status quo.

Tatum Hunter, Public Relations Intern

Image Credit: The Lace Doesn't Lessen the Horror of Pulling E mmett from the Water, Charlotte O'Neal.  And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations. See it before it closes Sept. 2.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 4:13pm

Freedom Center Voices: Meet Gina Armstrong

Now that I've been at the Freedom Center for almost a year, regaling you with exciting behind-the-scenes tales of collections and exhibits, it's time to introduce myself.

 Gina Armstrong in front of David Turnley's photo of Nelson Mandela.I'm Gina Armstrong, one of the IMLS Coca-Cola Museum Studies Apprentices at the Freedom Center. I come to the Freedom Center fresh off a masters of library and information studies (MLIS), with an archival concentration, at the University of Alabama. Your next question is probably "How did you get from Alabama to Cincinnati? How did you even know about the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center?" Excellent questions. I have long been a social justice advocate, and spent my practicum time in graduate school working with the archives at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The longing for freedom is just in my blood, I guess. I also have a longtime friend who has lived in the area for close to 20 years, so I'd been to visit the Freedom Center a couple of times before learning of the apprenticeship and applying.

As an archivist, my primary interest is in the artifacts themselves -- "the stuff," as I like to call it. With my information background, I want to make sure that the artifacts are stored, cataloged, and described in the best way to make them easy to access, both for visitors and staff. I've long been an obsessive list-maker and user of databases, so cataloging and describing material comes naturally to me and makes me happy in the best nerdy way.

Outside of work, I am a voracious reader, a fan of punk and '80s music, and a rabid fan of the New Orleans Saints. It will also come as no shock that New Orleans is my favorite city in the country, if not the world. I am a inveterate traveller, and I've been all over the U.S., to Brazil and Zimbabwe on service trips, Great Britain on study and pleasure trips several times, Germany a few times on visits with friends and pleasure trips, and Italy, Peru, and Paris for pure pleasure. It will perhaps not be very surprising that I'd like to visit the three other continents I've never seen.

I'm excited to continue my apprenticeship at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for the next 12 months, learning more and more about museum work while fulfilling my passion for "the stuff."


-Gina Armstrong, IMLS Coca Cola Museum Studies Apprentice 

Image: Gina Armstrong inside Senzeni Na? Selected Photos from Mandela! Struggle and Triumph