Freedom Center Voices

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 - 4:52pm

The Works of Ernie Barnes

During my work day, I like to spend about 20 – 30 minutes checking out the exhibits. Of course being that the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection is our newest temporary exhibit, I’ve been spending time seeing rarities I know I’ll probably never have the opportunity to see again.

As I’ve worked my way to some of the last pieces of the exhibit, I come across paintings from an artist by the name of Ernie Barnes. Something about his work titled “Slow Drag” seems quite familiar to me as I carefully examined the elongated figures on the paintings. As I get on the elevator to head back to my desk it suddenly comes to me. The figures look just like a picture my late aunt had in her home. Once I’m at my desk, I google “Works of Ernie Barnes” images and I see just what I envisioned from my memory – a picture of his most famous painting “The Sugar Shack”.



Seeing that image along with his pieces in the Kinsey Collection brought back so many memories of spending time at my aunt’s home. I also began recalling other places I saw the painting that included other homes and black-owned, mom-and-pop businesses. From this realization I came to appreciate how much of an impact Barnes has had on Black culture, (even learning that Marvin Gaye used the image for his 1976 “I Want You” album cover). It was especially interesting learning that he was an actor and a football player. He used his art to convey the Black experience in America, especially in a feature he used in his paintings in which the figures had their eyes closed. He says “We stop at color quite often. So one of the things we have to be aware of is who we are in order to have the capacity to like others. But when you cannot visualize the offerings of another human being you're obviously not looking at the human being with open eyes”, as the reason behind this preferred feature in his work. 



Many people tend to overlook the small yet significant stories African Americans have contributed to not only Black culture, but American culture. This little jewel learning about Ernie Barnes and the impact of his work will be something I’ll always cherish as it is exactly the message the Kinsey’s want all guests to take away – learning about the subtle but meaningful impacts and contributions African Americans have made to this country.


Will Jones
Public Relations & Social Media Coordinator
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center      

Monday, February 5, 2018 - 3:24pm

Harper's Magazine

As the people of Alabama voted, the cover of Harper's Magazine from November 16, 1867 [which is part of the Kinsey Collection now on display at the Freedom Center] takes on special meaning to me.

Millions of people, both of African and European descent fought to end slavery (finally achieved by the ratification of the 13th Amendment in December 1865) and the recognition of the basic human and civil rights to the formerly enslaved (14th Amendment in July 1868). Almost immediately after the war, Freedman began voting, as depicted here in November 1867. Harper's took note of "the good sense and discretion, and above all the modesty" displayed by the freedmen. The magazine went on to note that they displayed no sense of exaltation or defiance, but were "serious, solemn and determined."

But as we know, the former Confederates, and, in fact, many in the North, resisted the important right of the Freedmen to vote, necessitating the effort to adopt the 15th Amendment in February, 1870.

If only that had been the end of the story. Jim Crow segregation suppressed the vote of African Americans with a merciless hand at the close of Reconstruction, culminating in the late 1890s. Voter suppression was enforced with literacy laws and poll taxes, as well as violence perpetrated by the KKK.

Fighting for the right to vote was a principal goal of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and '60s, culminating in the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A Supreme Court decision in 2013 weakened the ability of the federal government to protect minority voting and various forces have used ways to reduce minority voter registration and influence.
Alabama has been at the center of the struggle for full citizenship and voting rights at every turn. Today, if the Black voters of the state turn out, they could be the deciding factor in this critical special election for the U.S. Senate.

Visit the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection for inspiration and insight at the Freedom Center through February.


Dan Hurley
Interim President
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Friday, February 2, 2018 - 3:53pm

Brown vs. Board

The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection has an incredibly broad range of objects and art to take in. My favorite item in the collection is the signed decision letter for Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka. This document, unanimously approved and signed by the Supreme Court Justices holds special significance for me.

This past September marked the 60-year anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School. Our exhibit Mandela: The Journey to Ubuntu opened at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock the same weekend as this important anniversary. Several members of the Little Rock Nine attended the exhibit opening and the following day there was a ceremony in the auditorium of the high school commemorating their courageous actions 60 years prior.



Each of the surviving eight students spoke, reflecting on their experiences at Central. It was one of those rare times that you realize you are living in a moment of historic significance. Hearing those brave eight individuals speak in that auditorium was one of the most impactful experiences of my life. It may well be the most important moment I ever witness. Two months after returning home from that trip, we began the installation of the Kinsey Collection. Holding the document that allowed those nine brave students access to Little Rock Central, the gravity of the piece was not lost on me. This document is here in our gallery, an unassuming 8.5” x 11” piece of paper with five signatures that forever changed the course of American history, the lives of the Little Rock Nine and every student that followed.


Jesse Kramer
Creative Director
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Thursday, February 1, 2018 - 4:59pm

Quiet Strength

The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection is incredibly powerful and it has been an honor to promote the exhibition with the NURFC team these past few months. The breadth and depth of content, historical and personal, highlights the untold stories of so many Americans – from photographic, literary and artistic perspectives. I believe it would be nearly impossible to walk through a personal collection of this caliber and not have one, or more, objects speak to you. I try to make a point to spend at least 10 minutes in the Skirball Gallery each day I am in the office and “get to know” a new piece of the collection and I have learned so much.

One object in particular that catches my eye each time I walk through The Kinsey Collection is a book signed to Shirley Kinsey. This book, titled Quiet Strength, was signed by Rosa Parks in 1998.
I’m a fan of signed books. I’ve been known to stand in line for extended periods of time for the opportunity to thank an author for their work and have them sign a copy of my book.

Seeing this book has made me ask myself – how long would you stand in line for Rosa Parks’ signature? How could you possibly begin to say thank you and honor her life’s work, her journey? I think the only answer is another question: How could you leave a line leading you to Rosa Parks?


Jamie Glavic
AVP of Marketing & Communications
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Thursday, January 25, 2018 - 5:19pm

28 Days of The Kinsey Collection

In honor of Black History Month we want to recognize the many contributions and triumphs African Americans made to America throughout history. What better way to show this than to highlight the pieces of the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection? 


Married for over forty years, activist couple Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have built a world-renowned exhibition that challenge and redefine African American identity and representation in history and arts. What began as a third grade project for their son Khalil – turned in to one of the largest privately owned collections of African American art, artifacts and manuscripts in the country. Spanning over 400 years, their collection feature works from Zora Neale Hurston, Romare Bearden, and Elizabeth Catlett – to name a few. Guests can even find pieces that have local ties to the city of Cincinnati such as the “Autumn Landscape” by Robert S. Duncanson, who spent the majority of his professional career in the Queen City. 

This is the second time the exhibit has made its way here to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. It was originally the second location the collection appeared when it began traveling in 2006. Since then, it has been displayed at the California African American Museum, The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Epcot Center at Disney World and The Hong Kong University Museum and Gallery to name a few, and has won many prestigious awards including the President’s National Award for Museum and Library Services. 

Throughout February our staff, volunteers and docents will highlight pieces of the collection as well as give you first-person accounts of their experiences in the gallery. See the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection, presented by Macy’s, at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center before it closes on Saturday, March 3. #MyNURFC #KinseyatNURFC

Will Jones
Public Relations & Social Media Coordinator
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center



Friday, January 12, 2018 - 1:03pm

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Appalled by Offensive Language Reportedly Used by President Trump

As an organization devoted to exploring and understanding the legacy of slavery in order to ensure freedom for all, we at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center are appalled by the offensive language reportedly used by the President in reference to Haiti and African nations. This language is unacceptable and the attitude being articulated perpetuates white privilege and superiority – undermining people of color in our global community.

As an organization devoted to freedom, inclusion and unity we denounce racist rhetoric. This is our charge as a museum of conscience, education center and convener of dialogue. The language used by the President, followed by the lament about not attracting more northern European immigrants, is beyond alarming. The leaders at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center call on the public to take a stand and share that this language is not reflective of the attitude of all American people. As our history dramatically demonstrates, the success of our nation is thanks to our diversity and as a result, the American dream cannot and should not be an impossible dream for immigrant communities of color.

Friday, January 12, 2018 - 12:00pm

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Celebrates the Life and Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This weekend through Monday, January 15, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will begin honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his many contributions through a series of programs and activities. We encourage you take part in celebrating with us as we’re sure to have something you’ll enjoy.

Gallery Talk: Have We Achieved MLK’s Dream will feature a discussion with Pastor K.Z. Smith of Corinthian Baptist Church on Saturday, January 13, at 1:30 p.m. The Gallery Talk Series provides visitors with the opportunity to engage with museum staff and community leaders to discuss social injustice, freedom and equality. The series is included in general admission and open to the public.

The 2018 King Legacy Awards Breakfast will be Monday, January 15, with doors opening at 7:30 a.m. and breakfast beginning at 8:00 a.m. The breakfast honors the participants of the King Legacy Youth Leadership Program. The King Legacy Youth Program provides leadership opportunities for graduates of the Freedom Center’s Youth Docent Program and scholarship funds upon completion of the program. The keynote speaker is The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati Artistic Director of Education and Outreach, Deondra Kamau Means.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will open to the public from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with free general admission to the museum’s permanent exhibitions and programming for the day. Special programming and initiatives will include the Hoxworth Cincinnati Blood Drive; Bead for Life bracelet sale in conjunction with the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s Modern Day Slavery initiatives; membership opportunities for the chance to win prizes, and a community concerts throughout the day beginning at 11:00 a.m.

We hope your participation in this annual day of service will inspire you to continue the ongoing fight in fulfilling Dr. King’s dream. #MyNURFC

Will Jones

Public Relation & Social Media Coordinator

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Thursday, December 14, 2017 - 9:48am

Happy Holidays from the Freedom Center

Just because our fight for freedom is ongoing doesn’t mean we can’t take time out to celebrate and appreciate the blessings in our lives. Often those blessings include being able to give to our children.

One of the greatest gifts we encourage you to give your children this season is the opportunity to experience the rich history our museum offers. With many students being on winter break between now and January, what better way to spend some of their time than at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center? We have many exciting exhibits on display for guests to see such as The Rosa Parks Experience and The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection. We will be open during our regular hours Tuesday – Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. throughout the rest of December 2017. Also, be sure to visit us Monday, January 15 for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday as we’re offering guests free general admission.

Guests of all ages will be sure to leave not only learning something new about America’s inclusive community of all peoples, but will also be challenged and inspired to take courageous steps to freedom. Happy holidays from all of us here at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.


Will Jones Public Relations & Social Media Coordinator National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 12:18pm

NURFC Holiday Hours

As you welcome family and friends from all over to visit Cincinnati, and the Greater Cincinnati region, to appreciate the many successes and joys life can bring, we hope you also take a moment to reflect on the struggles many have gone through for you to celebrate this time of giving.  

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be closed on Thursday, November 23. We will reopen on Friday, November 24 for regular museum hours from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM. We encourage you to visit and bring your in, and out-of-town guests to see us as we have much going on.  

Through November 30, veterans get free general admission to the museum. This is our way of saying thank you for the service they have given to our country. If you have not visited in a while, come in to see our newest exhibit, The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection. The exhibit features the largest private-owned collection of African American art, artifacts and documents in the country from Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, spanning more than 400 hundred years of history.   

Guests also have the opporunity to see our permanent exhibits such as The Rosa Parks Experience, and the Open Your Mind: Understanding Implicit Bias Learning Lab during their visit. The Rosa Parks Experience, sponsored by Procter & Gamble, is an immersive virtual reality experience that commemorates Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks’ historic demonstration, just four days before the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. The Open Your Mind: Understanding Implicit Bias Learning Lab is designed to assist the public in understanding and recognizing bias and other forms of discrimination, as well as to explore recent debates in the realm of implicit bias research. The learning lab is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Foundation and Procter & Gamble.

We at The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center hope you have a fun and safe holiday season whether you’re staying home or traveling. We hope you’ll stop by for a meaningful museum experience with your loved ones over the holidays. #MyNURFC

Will Jones Public Relations & Social Media Coordinator National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Friday, October 6, 2017 - 4:19pm

A Recap of Gallery Talk Series: Confederate Flag Heritage vs. Hate

“I know what that flag means,” said a visitor in the crowd at the second of our gallery talk series, The Confederate Flag: Heritage vs. Hate that occurred Saturday, September 30th, 2017.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect with leading this gallery talk. Though I don’t refer to myself as a scholar of the Confederate flag, I have dedicated a majority of my master’s studies to the subject. In graduate school I took on the project of discussing the Confederate flag in public memory, turning it into my capstone thesis. Having given presentations over the debate about the Confederate flag before, I was confident in my knowledge of the subject. However, with the debate about Confederate imagery heating up in the media, I was unsure what type of reaction I would receive from this discussion.

Not only was the crowd on Saturday receptive to what I was saying, they were engaging and vocal on their experiences with the Confederate flag. This was crucial for me because above all else, I wanted to spark a meaningful dialogue with visitors about the flag. What I hoped to gain from this gallery talk was to help people understand why there is a debate about the Confederate flag and the many interpretations associated with this one symbol. What I walked away with was encouragement that regardless how tough the conversation may be, people are ready to have these discussions about current issues we are facing in America today.

Although it may be uncomfortable, I urge you to push yourself to have a dialogue with others about issues that you feel need to be discussed.

    Katie Bramell Researcher National Underground Railroad Freedom Center