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.
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.
It's that time of year again--warmer weather, longer days and the return of seasonal visitor hours! School groups from across the region will be visiting the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center this spring, to engage with history, learn about modern abolition and connect with the lessons of the Underground Railroad. In order to accommodate the influx of visiting school groups and the general public, the museum will be open Mondays in May, from 11 a.m... to 5 p.m. So, if you are looking for an additional day to tour one of our permanent exhibitions, see one of our films in the Harriet Tubman Theater or experience a special exhibition before it closes, this extension will provide the perfect opportunity for you and your family!
In addition to Monday's in May, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be open two Sundays in April, the 12th and 26th, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 16 marks Yom Hashoah, which commemorates the victims of the Holocaust. In honor of this day of remembrance, we welcome you join us throughout the month of April to honor the lives of those who perished and celebrate stories of survival by visiting Unlocking the Gates of Auschwitz 70 Years Later. In this special exhibition, you can learn more about the history of the Holocaust and the stories of two Cincinnati survivors, Bella Ouziel and Werner Coppel, before it closes at the end of May.
Want the latest on upcoming 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. #70YearsLater
-Assia Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator
Image: Detail of artifact inside Unlocking the Gates, part of the Steven F. Cassidy Collection.
During the month of January, celebrations across the tri-state will reflect upon Dr. King's legacy and dream. At the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the 2015 King Legacy Awards Breakfast will highlight past King Legacy Award honorees and the courageous actions of the veterans of Freedom Summer 1964 and the foot-soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. The breakfast, which is presented in partnership with the MLK Coalition, has called the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center home for the past 8 years.
The program following the breakfast will be a celebration of courageous individuals, past and present, and honor the staff, docents and volunteers who have served the center for 10 years. In addition to reflections from past honorees, the program will feature performances from the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church of Glendale, Ohio and The Filo Quartet of Walnut Hills High School. Courtis Fuller of WLWT-TV will preside as master of ceremonies with a keynote speech from Freedom Center president, Clarence G. Newsome, Ph.D. Below is a full list of events and activities happening in and around the Freedom Center on Jan. 19.
Prior to the Martin Luther King, Jr. day events on the 19th, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center president, Clarence G. Newsome, Ph.D. will address the students of the University of Cincinnati, Tuesday, Jan. 13 in the TUC Great Hall beginning at 12 noon. In addition to Newsome's keynote speech, information will be provided to attendees detailing his theme, which presents various chronological concepts of freedom, from the perspective of "time" until the present thought, of what freedom should look like in our future society: "Freedom Yesterday, Freedom Today, and Freedom Forever." For more information on this event, contact MLK coordinator Eric Watford.
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: Detail image of the voting machine inside special exhibit Power of the Vote.
More authored by Assia: 150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential Proclamation, Flame Friday: Artist James Pate, Freedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs Thursday, King Records now a Cincinnati landmark, On This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, Connect with History Labor Day Weekend, 50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965, 50 Midwest Museums We Love, Mother's Day Gift Ideas, Flame Friday, Jimmie Lee Jackson, MLK Day 2015
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.
Someone recently asked me “how do you create exhibits at the Freedom Center?” Well, every exhibit is slightly different, but I can tell you how we created our new online exhibit, Cincinnati’s Soldiers: Men and Women in the First World War.
It began with a collaboration and a collection. The collection, housed at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives, is a group of portraits of service people donated after display at the Allied War Exhibition at Music Hall in 1918. Since we wanted to tell individual stories and show the impact of factors such as race and gender on opportunities to serve, this record of people who served seemed like the perfect place to start. We combed through the photographs to decide which ones we would include. As often happens, we found more stories than we could tell in one exhibit.
The demographics of the portraits tell one story: they are the result of discrimination in the military and aid organizations at that time. In the entire collection – which held nearly 3,000 portraits – there were only ten African-American men, five white women, and no African American women. In addition to portraying racial and gender diversity, we also wanted to show a range of jobs and duties performed by service people in the Great War, so we chose individuals to research based on those factors.
Once we had identified subjects, we had to learn more about them. We used tools such as Family Search and Ancestry.com to look at birth records, census data, and death records to find out more about these individuals’ lives and family relationships. The Cincinnati City Directories told us where and how these people lived. Selective Service Draft cards included servicemen’s professions in civilian life.
For me, learning about these people was the most exciting part of creating the exhibit. Make sure you check out Francis Herman Gow, the Simms family and the professional women (a doctor and a lawyer in 1918!) in Cincinnati’s Solders. If you would like to explore these types of records, visit the Freedom Center’s Family Search Center, where you can research your family’s genealogy.
Once we knew the stories we were telling, we had to put the exhibit together. We wrote a script describing the collection and each individual. The archivists at the Cincinnati History Library and Archives scanned the photographs for online display. The script was revised and edited many times. The look of the exhibit was designed by our Brand Champion, Jesse Kramer, and the content uploaded to the Freedom Center’s website. I hope you get a chance to look at s Soldiers, and that you enjoy learning about these amazing individuals.
- Nancy Yerian, AmeriCorps Member, Ohio History Service Corps
This Friday, join local leaders and activists at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center for a discussion of the recent kidnappings in Nigeria and the accompanying worldwide #Bringbackourgirls social media campaign. Participants will come away with a deeper understanding of the happenings in Nigeria and the implications for activism in the age of the internet.
Rebecca Lehman, Coordinator of University of Cincinnati’s Racial Awareness Program, will moderate the discussion. Community partners include Cincinnati League of Women Voters, Cincinnati Junior League, End Slavery Now and Xavier University’s Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice.
This event is free and open to the public.
As an institution dedicated to the abolition of modern day slavery, the Freedom Center wants to serve as a space for the community to discuss nuanced issues like the recent kidnappings, learn about the connections to the wider landscape of human trafficking and reflect on the international community’s response to an instance of human trafficking. Freedom Center President Dr. Clarence G. Newsome recently released a statement on the kidnappings, calling on readers to speak out against actions that threaten the freedom of individuals and cause entire communities to live in fear.
Friday’s discussion will focus on these kidnappings and the international response but will also touch on some of the broader issues of modern day slavery and human trafficking— types of modern day slavery, the causes and effects of modern day slavery and the warning signs of human trafficking.
The conversation will also include the role of women’s education in combating modern day slavery. Women’s education has been one of the most powerful tools in the fight against poverty, infant mortality and violent extremism across the world. Panelists and attendees will be asked to consider the importance of women’s education and empowerment within our own communities.
Lastly, this event will address the importance of responsible social media advocacy and the role of social media in modern activism. The explosive worldwide response through #BringBackOurGirls has raised many questions about the ethics of social media advocacy— in the age of the internet, how do we engage in the fight for freedom in a way that promotes empathy, solidarity and pluralism?
The event will take place this Friday, June 6 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Everyday Freedom Hero Gallery.
-Tatum Hunter, Marketing Intern
“Hold those things that tell your history and protect them. During slavery, who was able to read or write or keep anything? The ability to have somebody to tell your story to is so important. It says: 'I was here. I may be sold tomorrow. But you know I was here.'”
Those words, spoken by Maya Angelou, help inform the everyday activities here at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. Those words take on a greater significance today with news of the passing of this extraordinary writer and poet.
This amazing woman, who lifted herself from challenging circumstances and took her opportunities where she found them – working as a fry cook, dancer, singer and even the first female streetcar conductor in San Francisco – expressed herself in ways that gave hope to the hopeless and provided a map for many without direction.
Without deep formal education, she found her voice and wrote some of the most seminal works of poetry and fiction, giving voice to so many without words.
"The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
of things unknown but longed for still
and his tune is heard on the distant hill
for the caged bird sings of freedom."
Her words cried for personal courage, self-expression and working for what is right. She lent her voice to many causes, working with global freedom fighters such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela and was an organizer of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Before her death she received many awards, including numerous doctorates, culminating with the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the highest civilian honor in the United States.
When she visited the Freedom Center last November, Maya shared sage advice and wisdom with us that will live in our hearts forever. She told me, “Newsome, we expect something new to come from you, you new man.” It is with that calling that my colleagues at the Freedom Center and I feel empowered to continue sharing the stories of the Underground Railroad that risk being silenced, and fighting for those “caged birds” throughout the world who long and sing of freedom.
"Out of the huts of history's shame
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide."
Angelou's mortal voice may have been stilled, but her words are immortal. They will continue to inspire generations of freedom fighters with tales of courage, personal persistence and an ongoing battle for self-expression.
—Clarence G. Newsome, president
Image: Angelou addresses the audience in the Harriet Tubman Theater during her visit last November.
"We at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center were saddened to hear the news today of Cincinnati civil rights pioneer Juanita Adams. Ms. Adams was a long-time Ambassador and supporter of the Freedom Center and her influence on both the Center and on the city of Cincinnati will truly be missed.
Ignoring advice early in life that being an African American would limit her career options, Ms. Adams spanned a 40-year career in management with the city of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Health Department, retiring as Cincinnati Registrar: Director of Vital Records. She also served as both vice president and president of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP, and was active in many other community activities, including the Urban League and Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. Ms. Adams was also the mother of Anthony Adams, a successful attorney in Detroit, Michigan.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center was built on, and is upheld by, men and women such as Ms. Adams who dedicate their time and resources to our cause of spreading freedom. We are grateful for her support of the Center and our prayers are with her family during this difficult time."
-Clarence G. Newsome, Ph.D., Freedom Center president
Image: Adams in 2008, courtesy of Tony Jones Photo.
On April 26, 2014, thousands of middle and high school students from all over Ohio gathered in Columbus to participate in the state level competition for National History Day. NHD is an annual academic program and competition that engages students in in-depth historical research. Each student completes a project on a topic of their choice related to an annual theme. They do months of primary and secondary research on their topic and create a project – a website, performance, paper, exhibit, or documentary – to present at competition. The students in Columbus had already been through school and regional competitions to earn their place in the state contest. Their projects were the best in the state, and they were marvelous.
I was lucky enough to be at the state competition because I was judging for a Special Prize. Every year, the Freedom Center gives the Fan the Flame Award to recognize the most outstanding National History Day in Ohio project focusing on an individual, a group or a movement that have contributed significantly to the advancement of freedoms and the assurance of the civil and human rights of others. The award recipients help “fan the flame” by recognizing that “there is a spark within each of us” and challenging and inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom today.
This year, the theme for National History Day was “rights and responsibilities.” Since this theme fits so well with the Freedom Center’s mission, many of the projects were eligible for the Fan the Flame award. In fact, we received over 50 nominations! This made it very difficult to choose winners, but it was also rewarding to see the incredibly rich research that so many hardworking students had put into their projects. To see some of those extraordinary creations, check out the Ohio Historical Society’s Flickr page pictures of the competition.
In the end, the Freedom Center’s awards went to Erin Barr for her performance, “Residents of Africa Road: Taking Responsibility to Help Escaping Slaves along the Road to Freedom” and Amani Hill for the documentary “Killing a Panther: The FBI Plot to Destroy the Black Panther Party.” The finalists from the state competition will go on to show at National History Day in College Park, Maryland, in June. I wish them the best of luck and, having seen their projects, I know they will do well. Every student who completed a History Day project has already accomplished a great deal and hopefully learned a lot in the process.
- Nancy Yerian, AmeriCorps Member, Ohio History Service Corps
This website was funded by the U.S. Department of Education Underground Railroad Educational and Cultural (URR) Program