Voices

Freedom Center Voices

Friday, July 8, 2016 - 12:02pm

Clarence G. Newsome, president, Asks Nation to Come Together in the Midst of This Week’s Violence

Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, calls the nation to come together after three horrific shootings that have deeply affected communities across the country.  

 “The horrible events that our country has witnessed over the past three days in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas have shocked America’s soul.  Our body politic is in need of deep, deep healing.  No free republic can long endure without maturing to the point where all of its citizens live the reality of what freedom requires of us individually.  It requires that each of us live out a shared understanding of what personal freedom means.  Personal freedom is the power to relate and interact with others in ways that safeguard, sustain and enhance life to the optimal degree.  A young nation must grow to see that freedom has no practical meaning for someone living an isolated existence on a deserted island.  It only has meaning to the degree that we relate to one another respectfully, responsibly and accountably.  Regardless of our private or professional roles, the capacity to be self-disciplining and self- governing is the key to personal freedom.  It is also the key to a peaceful and prosperous free society. Just four days ago America celebrated its precious gift of freedom.  It will be in the way that we exercise personal freedom that we will have reason to celebrate in the years ahead.  On this the day following three horrible days in our national life, I am appealing to the heart, mind and spirit of each American to demonstrate to each other and to the world the best of ourselves as a free people.  This day, and the days to come, we the people should commit to nothing less.” – Dr. Clarence G. Newsome, president of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. 

Friday, June 24, 2016 - 3:07pm

Supporting the LGBTQ Community After Pulse

It has been nearly two weeks since the attack on Pulse nightclub in Orlando and I have had a very difficult time putting into words exactly how this horrible atrocity has me feeling. Beyond the seething rage that defies description, there is something else.

I don’t feel safe. As Americans, we all feel this to some degree after the latest mass shooting in our country (how disgusting that I can say the words “latest mass shooting” to begin with). But let me be clear about one thing: I have not felt safe since having the realization at an early age that I was different and that my being different could mean violence against me was possible at any moment. 

Before I go on, I would say to my young self in this moment to look to hope and love. I was told something I needed to hear this week and it would have helped me years ago. Darkness owns the sky but we always look to the stars. I would tell him not to be ruled by fear and that the very act of existing in his own skin and being who he is, is an act of quiet revolution. His existence can change the world for another like him in the future and make their path a little easier. It is okay to be afraid, as I am now, this will pass. I absolutely refuse to be ruled by fear.

Waking up that morning and being reminded that there are people in the world who would like to see me meet a similar end was terrifying. The LGBTQ community is incredibly vulnerable here in the United States and even more so abroad.  Disproportionately at risk are people of color and those who identify as transgender. These members of our LGBTQ family often bear the brunt of this violence.

 

I heard many people over the past week say things like, “this was a club that welcomed everyone,” or “this didn’t directly affect you.” This is erasure. The truth is, this was a gay club. It directly impacts every single LGBTQ person on this planet. Any time an act of violence is committed against us, because of who we are and who we love, it directly effects our sense of safety.

 

Gay men and those suspected of being gay in Syria, are being hurled from multi-story buildings by ISIS extremists. Here in the U.S. trans students are now at risk of attack from their fellow classmates, (with the administration’s permission) for using the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. In Uganda anti-gay laws have incited an increase in violence against us. In Jamaica, LGBTQ people face mob attacks, stabbings, death threats and, in some cases, murder. Throughout the world lesbians are subjected to corrective rape. In Russia LGBTQ pride parades are met with violence and anti-gay groups who place false dating profiles in an effort to kidnap and torture those who respond. All of this is recorded and uploaded to the Internet as a warning to the LGBTQ people of the world. These are just a few examples of the violence that our community faces every day. 

 

 

We must press on and, whatever we do, we must not allow this most recent attack to drive a wedge between us, and our similarly marginalized brothers and sisters in the Islamic community. I entreat my LGBTQ family, and anyone reading this post, to not respond to hate with hate and to not judge an entire group of people based on the actions of a few. We are better than that. We live in a climate of fear. We are tired. We are angry. Despite all of this - we must remain strong.

The LGBTQ members of your community are suffering and they need you now more than ever. When you hear a slur, a joke, a derogatory comment, or anti-gay rhetoric, know that it directly contributes to a culture that has allowed this violence against us. To do nothing is to be complicit.

We all have a direct responsibility as human beings to help end hate. It is up to all of us to stand up and speak up. I refuse to sit quietly any longer. I hope you’ll join me.

 

Jesse Kramer, Art Director

Images: NYDaily News, WSBV-Atlanta

Related Content: The Emancipation ProclamationThe Thirteenth Amendment.

 

Friday, June 3, 2016 - 2:32pm

Here's Why We Should Not Boycott Roots

By now you may have read Snoop’s comments about the reboot of Roots and his call to boycott the series. His comments, which he delivered this week via Instagram—from his account that boasts a following of 10. 5 million users—has already driven numerous responses, including comments from the producers of the series reboot, Roland Martin & Levar Burton, the latter of whom played Kunta Kinte in the original 1977 miniseries. But Roots is much more than a story about slavery, it’s a story about the black experience in America.

 

So, here's why we should NOT boycott Roots.

 

1. History

It's important. In the 150 plus years since the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation and the enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment, the latter of which abolished institutionalized slavery in America, never before have we been more equipped to tell the story of the people that endured the system and the subsequent atrocities that followed its end, by the descendants of those who endured it. Prior to the miniseries, stories about slavery and the Civil War in mainstream culture and media— print, film and music— were predominately told by Southern sympathizers, like D.W. Griffith and Margaret Mitchell, who romanticized the period and further perpetuated derogatory stereotypes of black people, diminishing them to caricatures. Roots was the first time that America’s dark history –from slavery to the contemporary issues of the day—was told from the black perspective, with strong, unapologetic characters like Kunta Kinte, to a prime-time audience.

 

 

2. A Brief History of the Black Image in Media

Roots was revolutionary—not in subject matter alone, but in presentation and representation.  The original Roots aired a little more than a decade after the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 and the Civil Rights Act of 1965.  In an address at the National Broadcast Editorial Conference of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism in July of 1964, the then president of CBS, Frank Stanton, called upon broadcasters to launch a "mighty and continuing editorial crusade" in support of civil rights. Albeit the call was initially was made to focus on blacks as the subjects of documentaries in alignment with Lyndon B. Johnson’s vision of the “Great Society,” the shows produced during this time period—The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show, Julia, Star Trek and The Mod Squad, to name a few—placed black actors in leading and supporting roles, introducing mainstream America to black culture and issues.

Prior to this shift, films starring black actors made by black filmmakers – Oscar Micheaux, Spencer Williams and James and Eloyce Gist—in order to contradict negative stereotypes, were suppressed by major studios, especially to Southern audiences. Films produced during the Golden Age of Hollywood that featured or starred black actors, such as Gone with the Wind, Cabin in the Sky, Stormy Weather, Imitation of Life and Pinky, were few and far between and mostly catered to white audiences, perpetuating archetypical “black” characters. The shift that Stanton called for in 1964 had already begun playing out in Hollywood with the arrival of Sidney Poitier, Dorothy Dandridge, Ruby Dee, Ozzie Davis and more, many of whom made the leap from theater to the silver screen. But, for all the progress made in front of the camera, there was still progress to be made behind the camera. The original Roots screenplay and series directors included Alex Haley and Gilbert Moses, co-founder of the Free Southern Theater Company whose establishment was part of the Black Theater Movement, in alignment with the Civil Rights Movement. Having black writers produce work for mainstream consumption was still considered a risky investment.

 

 

 

3. Something that "happened 200 years ago" ABSOLUTELY relates to contemporary issues.

When Roots aired in January of 1977, the nation was still recovering from the Vietnam War, civil unrest and economic crisis. The manufacturing jobs that drew southern black families north during the Great Migration began to dwindle in the mid-60s and were being outsourced to other countries where the cost of labor was cheaper.  But the burden of a national trend affecting cities across the country was disproportionately suffered by black and brown, working class families, as white families began moving out of cities (see white flight) to avoid the desegregation of schools and Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968—the Fair Housing Act—which prohibited housing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. What does slavery have to do with this? Systemic Racism—Jim Crow, employment and housing discrimination, incarceration, the school- to prison pipeline, the wealth gap, the war on drugs and infant mortality all stem from the systematic stripping of constitutional rights established during the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877).  Roots is a saga—and it begins with slavery because that’s where the story of blacks in America begins.

 

4. Should we watch Soul Plane instead or nah?

You're right about one thing—we need more black stories in mainstream media. Stories and images that showcase who we are culturally and celebrates our diversity, because we are not a monolith.  Please!—make movies and media that tell multiple stories of a rich culture and diverse people. In the last decade, television has seen a resurgence of black characters in leading roles in the coveted prime time television spot. The rise of social media and streaming services has also provided previously unknown black actors, writers and producers— like Issa Rae— with a powerful platform in which our stories can be seen and consumed by the masses, jettisoning black actors and black stories back into traditional media outlets. Shows like Martin, Living Single, Girlfriends, A Different World and many more, have reintroduced the contemporary black experience to new audiences and a new generation of viewers. What’s more is that the characters are three dimensional, beautifully nuanced roles written, produced and directed by people of color. The creation of these complex roles provide more to mainstream media consumption than bland, unrealistic,  stock "black" characters, previously written by writers who knew nothing of what it is like to be black in contemporary America.

 

So yes, Snoop, I will be watching—well, streaming—because in a time where states are violating voting rights and where activists have to remind society that Black Lives Matter, it is extremely important that we go back to our roots.

 

Assia Micheaux Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Images: Roots (2016) Via History Channel, Still from Stormy Weather  via MGM and allposters.com

Related Content: The Emancipation ProclamationThe Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: Freedom Center Open This Memorial Day, May 30, Freedom Center Open Sundays in Summer, Gift Shop Sale: Mother's Day Gift Ideas and More!, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New CuratorReveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 4:44pm

Freedom Center Gift Shop Sale

 

The Gift Shop at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is full of great gift ideas for your entire family—with a variety of books, apparel, souvenirs, art, beautifully and locally hand-crafted jewelry, toys, housewares and more!  Now is the perfect time to purchase an inspired gift during our store-wide 75% off sale, where Freedom Center members get an additional 20% off their purchase! Click here to become a member today.

 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 3:26pm

Freedom Center Open This Memorial Day, May 30

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be open to the public on Memorial Day, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

 

In addition to being open on Memorial Day, the museums's summer hours begin this Sunday, May 29, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., through Labor Day weekend.

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 

Related Content: ENSLAVEDThe Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: Freedom Center Open Sundays in Summer, Gift Shop Sale: Mother's Day Gift Ideas and More!, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New CuratorReveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 3:16pm

Freedom Center Open Sundays In Summer

 

 

The museum will be open on Sundays beginning May 29.

 

 

 

Our extended summer hours provide more opportunities to engage in historical programming, tour permanent exhibitions and experience special exhibitions including ENSLAVED: A Visual Story of Modern Day Slavery, featuring images by world-renown humanitarian photographer, Lisa Kristine and see the founding documents of freedom, The Emancipation Proclamation and The Thirteenth Amendment, before they close July 24.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center’s seasonal Sunday hours begin this Sunday, May 29, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., through Labor Day weekend.

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 M. Johnson, Public Relations and Social Media Coordinator 

Related Content: ENSLAVEDThe Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: Gift Shop Sale: Mother's Day Gift Ideas and More!, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New CuratorReveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 9:39am

Comments on The Image of Harriet Tubman on the U.S. $20 Bill

The richness of American diversity and the multifaceted contributions to American democracy is making an appearance on American currency. Harriet Tubman’s image on the American $20 bill represents a recognition of the role people of color and women played in making the United States of American a beacon of hope for the world. Tubman is known primarily as an abolitionist, fighting against slavery, and as the matriarch of the Underground Railroad, navigating the route to freedom for persons bold enough to escape from slavery. She was also an indispensable part of the military efforts of the Union Army. Tubman served the Union Army as a cook, a nurse, a scout, and a resourceful spy who risked her life moving through the south gathering intelligence which aided the union cause. Tubman represents the depth of American liberty. About liberty she stated, “I would fight for liberty so long as my strength lasted.” It was most appropriate that when she died Harriet Tubman was buried with military honors. She was a solider for the cause of the Union of the United States. She was also a solider for justice, for women’s rights, for the rights of all persons to enjoy the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I am particularly pleased that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, who I had the honor of meeting when he served as Deputy Secretary of State and I served as U.S. Ambassador to the African Union, has taken the bold step in recognizing Harriet Tubman’s contribution to American democracy by placing her image on one of our nation’s most widely used pieces of currency. As Executive Vice President of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the home of the Harriet Tubman Theatre, I am hopeful that the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be one of the places for a public unveiling of the currency and a public discussion of contributions to American democracy made by Harriet Tubman. 

 

Dr. Michael A. Battle, Executive Vice President/Provost of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Related Content:  The Thirteenth AmendmentThis Week: Satchel Paige and the Kansas City SwingKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkThe 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 8:42am

Freedom Center Open Mondays in May

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will be open to the public each Monday in May from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The museum’s regular hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The additional hours of operation are needed to accommodate the demand for school group visits throughout the month of May. Nearly 8,000 students will visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center this month.

Students from across the region will visit the museum this month, as well as students from Iowa, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and West Virginia.



The additional hours for school groups provide more opportunities for the public to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center and see rare, original copies of the Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment. The exhibit featuring both freedom documents side-by-side closes June 30, 2016. Visitors will also have the opportunity to tour ENSLAVED: A Visual Story of Modern Day Slavery opening Saturday, May 7, 2016ENSLAVED features images by world-renowned humanitarian photographer Lisa Kristine that not only document the lives endured by slaves but also celebrate the freedom they never dreamed possible.

Related Content: ENSLAVEDThe Thirteenth Amendment.

Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 2:57pm

Chris Felix Artwork Available for Purchase During Screening of American Pastime

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will host local artist Chris Felix May 4, whose commissioned artwork of American baseball legend Kenichi Zenimura entitled “Kenichi Zenimura, Go for Broke,” will be on view and available for purchase at the screening of American Pastime—a compelling drama, directed Desmond Nakano, set in the Topaz War Relocation Center that interned thousands of Japanese Americans during WWII.

The screening of American Pastime is the fourth film in The Freedom Film series and will take place Wednesday, May 4 at 6:30 p.m. in the Harriet Tubman Theater. The screening is free and open to the public. A welcome reception will be held in the Grand Hall at 5:30 p.m. with the film screening promptly at 6:30 p.m. The Freedom Film Series is sponsored by Chubb Group of Insurance Companies.

 

 

Felix, a Cincinnati native and College of Art Advertising alumni, has been featured in museums across the country including, The Louisville Slugger Museum, The National Jewish Sports Hall of Fame (New York), The Green Diamond Gallery (Cincinnati), The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, The Museum Center at Cincinnati Union Terminal, The National Art Museum of Sport (Indianapolis), The George Krevsky Gallery (San Francisco), Convivio Center (San Diego) and the Art on the Levee Gallery (Newport). His art encapsulates the excitement of the great American pastime while celebrating and highlighting Cincinnati’s unique history and role in the sport and its unique players.

Felix’s skill in calling out little-known stories in a widely discussed sport helped to bring Kenichi “The Dean of the Diamond” Zenimura’s compelling story to the forefront of the discussion, where race and civil rights intersect with professional sports. Zenimura was born on January 25, 1900 in Hiroshima, Japan. Shortly after his birth, his family immigrated to America, where they settled in Honolulu, Hawaii. Zenimura’s career in professional baseball began in 1920 in Fresno, California, where he played on all Japanese-American professional teams. He became known as “The Father of Japanese American Baseball,” for his unique ability to play all positions and work collaboratively with Japanese-American, Negro League and Major League teams, quickly becoming an international ambassador for baseball, where he led tours to Japan in 1924, 1927 and 1937. During WWII, Zenimura and his family were sent to the Gila River Indian Reservation at the Gila River War Relocation Center in Arizona, where he immediately began to establish a baseball field and 32-team league. His efforts would give the hundreds of thousands of interned Japanese Americans a sense of pride and hope during a time of unjust, heighted paranoia and mistrust of a group of Americans.

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 

Related Content: ENSLAVEDThe Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New CuratorReveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 2:53pm

Gift Shop Sale: Mother's Day Gift Ideas and More!

Still trying to figure out what to get mom this Mother's Day? The Gift Shop at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is full of great gift ideas—including beautifully and locally hand-crafted jewelry, art, souvenirs, apparel, books, toys, fashion accessories, housewares and more!  Now is the perfect time to purchase an inspired gift for mom during our store-wide 50% off sale, where Freedom Center members get an additional 20% off their purchase!

One of our featured fair trade items is from the Nomi Network and Baskets of Cambodia—two non-profits working to empower survivors of human trafficking with economic and educational opportunities. The Nomi Network was founded in 2009, creating economic opportunities for survivors and women at risk of human trafficking. Through their network, women gain employable skills, secure vital income and educate their daughters, breaking the cycle of poverty and exploitation.

If you’re looking to gift an experience your mom won’t soon forget, take her to the opening of ENSLAVED—the new special exhibition opening May 7 that documents the lives endured by slaves and celebrates the freedom they never dreamed possible.  The exhibition is a powerful statement about one of the greatest human rights abuses of our time with compelling photography that captures the experience of a moment lived in slavery, allowing the viewer to peek into the lives of those who are enslaved. Click here to learn about the exhibit opening with the photographer of the exhibition, Lisa Kristine.

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 

Related Content: ENSLAVED, The Thirteenth Amendment.

More authored by Assia: National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Announces New Curator, Reveal Stories: The 18 Black American Athletes of the 1936 Olympic Games International Human Rights Day: Cincinnati Honors Legacy of Helen Suzman150th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment: President Obama Gives Presidential ProclamationFlame Friday: Artist James PateFreedom Center to Host Award-winning Author and Yale University Alumni Jeff Hobbs ThursdayKing Records now a Cincinnati landmarkOn This Day in History: The Preliminary Emancipation ProclamationConnect with History Labor Day Weekend50 Years Later: The Voting Rights Act of 1965,  50 Midwest Museums We LoveMother's Day Gift IdeasFlame FridayJimmie Lee JacksonMLK Day 2015

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