Some of you are familiar with the fact that I return to Cincinnati in June. When I go, after a day’s work, I take a walk from my hotel to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in the evening. Sometimes they are open in the evening, sometimes not. If they aren’t open one can see the Ohio River and the banks of Kentucky on the other side. You can imagine how slaves crossed the river and made it to Ohio, to the very bank you are standing. When it is open — there is so much to take in and you must be prepared to stay several hours or until they close.
The stories inside this museum are fascinating. The docents are not professional actors, but actors just the same captivating the visitors who pass through the galleries. One docent I met was a former NYPD officer who took time to serve the museum one summer I was there. He was eloquent, knowledgeable and absorbing. Other docents, teachers and professionals in the city of Cincinnati, acted out in period dress the stories of many slaves in first person.
The museum requires more than just one visit to take in so much detail. In the gift shop, I inquired as to whether there was a book compiling all the curated displays. Their response was no, there wasn’t such a book. “As it should be,” I thought to myself, as visitors need to experience all these stories, study the immense maps of Africa and the slave trade to the US, study the scene painted in a magnificent painting that documents the negotiation of slaves. They must walk in the reconstructed cabin that housed slaves. They must see the artifacts – photographs, bills of sale, clothing, household items, tools and chains.
In 1964 Jane Burch Cochran was one of 10,000 people who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King in support of civil rights. Decades later in 2004 and after nine months of daily work she completed this magnificent quilt below. I first saw this quilt in the Freedom Center. Upon subsequent visits I noticed it had been moved to the Duke Energy Center.