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The Freedom Center will preseent 85 quilts from the Women of Color Quilters Network in "And Still We Rise." (Photo by Peggie Hartwell, courtesy of NURFC)
Images from the documentary, "Hate Crimes in the Hearthland," which explores the racial divide in the U.S. through two incidents in Tulsa, Okla. (Photos courtesy of NURFC)
The Freedom Center’s Solomon Northup Tour includes 12 stops, which take visitors through the museum’s permanent exhibits, guiding them through the experience of Northup. (Photo courtesy of NURFC)
Brandi Langford-Sherrill plays Frederick Douglass' first wife, Anna, in "The Frederick Douglass Story." (Photo courtesy of The Children's Theatre of Cincinnati)
CINCINNATI - The Black History Month lineup is designed to offer a variety of views about African-American life.
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CINCINNATI - National Underground Railroad Freedom Center staff hope to give people broad view of American history this February. Events and exhibitions at the center will provide opportunities to celebrate Black History Month, putting a spotlight on the struggles and achievements of African-Americans.
About Black History Month
Black History Month was started in 1926 by African-American historian and author Carter G. Woodson. The celebration, which began as Negro History Week, took place the second week of February to honor the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and African-American social reformer Frederick Douglass.
In 1976, during the United States Bicentennial, President Gerald Ford extended the observation a month.
“The intent was just to highlight achievements of African-Americans, of course highlighting the word ‘American’ because it established a culture that we have here,” said Assia Johnson, public relations and social media coordinator for the Freedom Center.
The Frederick Douglass Story
This family-friendly theater performance will kick off Black History Month at the Freedom Center. The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati is partnering with the Freedom Center to present two performances of “The Frederick Douglass Story” through the Children’s Theatre ArtReach program.
Featuring Northern Kentucky University graduate Rex Martinez as the title character, “The Frederick Douglass Story” is a biographical account of a slave who rose to become a statesman. The play emphasizes the role education played in his rise.
“What we’ve done with this production is we have focused on his journey through literacy,” said Chris Stewart, playwright and ArtReach associate artistic director.
The play also “offers a testament of perseverance and determination,” said director and Children’s Theatre teaching artist Deondra Means. The play is “very accessible to kids” and delves into information that may not be included in school lessons, he added.
“We want people to understand this is dealing with American history. Regardless of race or creed, we should all be engaged in learning that history,” said Christopher Miller, manager of program initiatives for the Freedom Center.
If you go:
And Still We Rise
Later in February, the Freedom Center will offer “Using Quilts to Teach History.” University of Cincinnati professor Cynthia Lockhart will teach the class about best practices for quilting and storytelling through quilts, Johnson said.
With 85 quilts from the Women of Color Quilters Network, "And Still We Rise" is the largest African-American quilting exhibit mounted by a museum in the U.S., said curator Carolyn Mazloomi. Through story quilts, the exhibit covers 400 years of history, from the first slaves brought to the U.S. through the first African-American president.
“I was inspired by the fact that I wanted to depict visually the presence of African-American history in the U.S. A lot of people don’t like to read about it. But everybody can relate to quilts, so I thought it was an easy vehicle to share that history,” Mazloomi said.
A different quilt will be highlighted each day in February.
The exhibit is especially pertinent to Black History Month because of the accomplishments it highlights and the sense of pride it instills, Mazloomi said.
“We are part of this canvas that is America, and we’ve contributed a lot,” she added.
Lockhart’s work is featured in the exhibition And Still We Rise: Race, Culture and Visual Conversations, which will be on display at the Freedom Center through March 29.
Hate Crimes in the Heartland
The Freedom Center also will host a screening of this documentary, which premieres in seven cities across the country throughout February.
The film explores the racial divide in the U.S. through the lens of two hate crimes that took place in Tulsa, Okla. nearly 100 years apart.
The first incident occurred in 1921 in an affluent African-American Tulsa community that was known as the “Black Wall Street” of the United States, according to the film’s producer and director, Rachel Lyon.
Thirty-five square blocks of the neighborhood were burned to the ground, 300 people were killed and 10,000 people were made homeless during what Lyon described as “the worse race riot in the nation.”
The story of the race riot is juxtaposed with the Good Friday Murders, which took place in 2012. Two white men drove through a black neighborhood, asking people for directions. Each time a person stopped to help them, the men shot the
individual. The men killed three people and injured five.
“One of the reasons we’re doing this in Black History Month nationally is because the need for healing and dialog and having a real conversation about race in our country has never been greater,” Lyon said.
Solomon Northup Tour
The Freedom Center’s Solomon Northup Tour includes 12 stops, which take visitors through the museum’s permanent exhibits, guiding them through the experience of Northup. Born a free man, he was captured and enslaved for 12 years before regaining his freedom.
The tour will likely be especially popular during February, in light of the Academy Award nominations for the film “12 Years a Slave,” which tells Northup’s story, Johnson said.
The Solomon Northup Tour is a permanent exhibit and is open to the public during the Freedom Center’s regular business hours. The cost is included in general admission to the Freedom Center’s permanent exhibitions.
Museum hours and admission