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Carl Westmoreland, Cincinnati Civil Rights activist, dead at 85

Served and advocated for the Freedom Center
Carl Westmoreland
Posted at 5:05 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-11 17:05:27-05

CINCINNATI — Carl Westmoreland, a renowned Civil Rights activist in Cincinnati, has died. He was 85.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center confirmed the death Thursday. Westmoreland served as a historian at the museum for almost 20 years.

“It is impossible to measure Mr. Westmoreland’s impact on our institution and our local and global community,” said Woodrow Keown, Jr., president and COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, in a press release. “His wisdom and his passion for storytelling revealed a history of pain and perseverance, struggle and stoicism, agency and action. His impact will forever be felt within the Freedom Center and in a community he has been so instrumental in educating.”

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center said Westmoreland's work included research on the history of the slave trade in America and the "historic role class, gender, race and enslavement have played within contemporary political, social and economic issues."

Before the Freedom Center opened, Westmoreland was an advocate for its creation. The Freedom Center said that when early designs called for a marble exterior of the museum, Westmoreland objected saying "African Americans have never known a smooth journey."

Westmoreland was responsible for discovering and helping restore one of the most significant artifacts at the Freedom Center: A slave pen. The Freedom Center says he slept in the pen at night to feel what it was like to be in that situation.

“Mr. Westmoreland was a community organizer, preservationist and a distinguished voice of the ancestors who endured enslavement and oppression,” said Chris Miller, senior director of education and community engagement for the Freedom Center, in a press release. “He challenged and inspired us to use historical accounts, that are often uncomfortable, as a constructive tool to bring perspective and resolution to diverse communities. He was an intellectual force that has left a lasting impact on Cincinnati and beyond.”

The Freedom Center said in the press release mourning Westmoreland's death that he was a mentor, an advocate and a champion of those around him, offering wisdom to those at the museum navigating the dark, painful moments of American history, and to "Black professionals navigating a culture in America that required them to often work harder for less."