The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a must-see destination along the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati. (TLOD.com)
Editor’s note: Tony Grossi is an analyst on the Cleveland Browns for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
(Throughout the Browns regular season, I join my travel partner, Delta Airlines, in giving our followers a feel for the cities we’ll visit in 2019.)
When you drive to cover a Browns game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the designated media parking area is a few hundred yards from Paul Brown Stadium beneath a newer building called the Freedom Center.
Not until last week did I realize the history education inside that building.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which opened in 2004, is a museum that details the history of slavery and oppression in America.
It should be a required visit for every American student and adult. Because the history of slavery and oppression is the history of America, and to understand the history of slavery in America is to better understand the state of race relations in America today.
The banks of the Ohio River is the natural location for this museum and learning center.
Few Americans – not to mention Ohioans -- may realize that the Ohio River was the natural barrier that separated the slave states of the South from the free states of the North in the slavery period of American history.
The Underground Railroad was neither a railroad nor was it underground. It was the term for the network of people in the mid-1800s who helped enslaved African-Americans escape to free states and Canada through safe homes and stations.
About 100,000 slaves were estimated to have escaped to freedom through the Underground Railroad, and 30,000 were said to use the Ohio River route. Which is not a lot when you consider there was as many as 4 million enslaved in America in 1860.
The Freedom Center traces the history of slavery from the slave ships that crossed the Atlantic Ocean in the 1600s to modern-day slavery and human trafficking in the 21st Century.
The four floors of the museum are loaded with exhibits, interactive kiosks and short films. It is a sobering experience to walk through the museum and note such exhibits as the authentic slave pen from a Kentucky farm, which was used as a holding pen by a slave trader in the early 1800s.
There is a solemn quiet in the museum as visitors recount the roots of racism in our country. One fact that floored me was that 12 of our first 15 U.S. presidents were slave owners.
Intricate details of events leading to the Civil War are displayed in easy-to-read exhibits.
There is considerable space devoted to Abraham Lincoln, the greatest U.S. President who set forth the process to abolish slavery and lead the nation through the ensuing bloodiest war in American history.
From there, the Freedom Center continues the journey of men, women and children who challenged inequities and pursued freedom from racial injustice.
It is the never-ending challenge of our country, and the Freedom Center is an invaluable resource of history and information toward understanding it.
The Freedom Center sits between Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ballpark in the area of Cincinnati known as The Banks. There are shops and restaurants and housing units nearby that make this a convenient must-see destination when attending a Browns game against the Bengals.