50 E. Freedom Way
Cincinnati Ohio 45202United States
Midwest Living Recommends
Celebrate freedom along the banks of the Ohio while you take in the history of slavery and the fight to end it.
Though it's on the Ohio side of the Ohio River, the Freedom Center is oriented squarely to Kentucky: You stare straight across the historic Suspension Bridge as you enter the center and begin looking at the exhibits. After spending an afternoon here, learning about the history of slavery and the struggle for freedom, it's apparent why. As the dividing line between free and slave, the Ohio River is a central character in the story of slavery. There's nowhere else this museum should be than along the banks of the Ohio River. Definitely ask for the iPod guide (free with admission) and start on the second floor, at the Anderson Slave Pen from Kentucky. The 177-year-old building was donated to the center, transported here and carefully reconstructed. It's worth listening to the audio as you walk inside, not just to get a sense of the piece's history but also for the emotional impact. There are plenty of other static exhibits; we love the textile collage "Journeys 1 and 2" from Amnah Brenda Lynn Robinson (they took 35 years to make and are filled with found objects used in interesting ways). The multimedia exhibits rate high, too. Our favorite is the 25-minute film "Brothers of the Borderland." The small theater is an exhibit in itself (modeled on the banks of the Ohio River), and the film dramatizes the journey across the Ohio River to freedom and the people who helped escaped slaves make the journey. Save time for the third floor. Exhibits such as "Everyday Freedom Heroes" are must-sees; truly, you could spend a few hours learning about these freedom fighters from all walks of life, from the first black mayor of Cincinnati, Theodore Berry, to Chief Joseph). Also on the third floor, "From Slavery to Freedom" offers a great look at the history of slavery and the abolitionist movement, where you can see artifacts like John Brown's rifle and a cannonball from Fort Sumter. We visited during construction, so parking was tricky to figure out (signs had been displaced), but there is plenty of paid parking (and signage is good once you get inside the garage). Admission is $12 for adults. Allow two to three hours to really take it in.