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Extraordinary African American Women Celebrated In Freedom's Sisters Interactive Exhibition

Published Apr 7th 2008, 9:52pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

Freedomssistersalogo It would be difficult to imagine the course of American history without these amazing women: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad; Rosa Parks and her brave refusal in 1955 to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery city bus; Fannie Lou Hamer and her courageous stand at a 1968 political convention. These stories of courage and commitment are among the many featured in the "Freedom's Sisters" exhibition, a collaboration between the Cincinnati Museum Center, Ford Motor Company Fund, and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).

The interactive exhibition showcasing 20 extraordinary African American women opened its three-year national tour at the Cincinnati Museum Center in March, not coincidentally, during National Women's History Month. It will remain there until September 14, and will then travel to eight additional cities, including Memphis, Tennessee; Birmingham, Alabama; Dallas, Texas; and Detroit, Michigan. A variety of engaging, educational, and community outreach components will facilitate the involvement of local audiences. The exhibit has received praise locally and nationally as the first and most comprehensive exhibit on women in the civil rights movement.

On March 14, Museum Center welcomed Dr. Dorothy Height, Kathleen Cleaver, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Sonia Sanchez, five of the "living legends" featured in the exhibit, at a gala celebration. Several of these legendary women were also present at its public opening on March 15 and helped to announce Freedom's Sisters Essay Contest. This scholarship essay contest is designed to encourage the next generation of leaders through dialogue on the civil rights struggle, past, present and future. Students are asked to write an essay answering the questions, "Who is your favorite Freedom Sister and why?" and: "What are you doing to continue her legacy?" The contest is open to students, grades 4 through 8; winners will be announced on August 1 and will receive U.S. savings bonds in the value of $5,000 for first place, $2,500 for second place, first, second and third place runners up will each receive U.S. savings bonds in the value of $500.

Ellabaker "From Mary McCleod Bethune to Dorothy Height, the stories in 'Freedom's Sisters' will surely inspire and motivate all Americans, especially younger visitors," said Jim Vella, Ford Motor Company Fund President. "We are deeply proud to be a part of this important, educational and uplifting exhibition that honors these individuals and the causes that they served."

"The inspiring stories of these women should be told and told again," said Cincinnati Museum Center president and CEO Douglass W. McDonald. "Cincinnati Museum Center is honored to create this extraordinary exhibit and can only hope that we can provide an extension to the legacies of these strong, courageous and trailblazing women."

"These 20 women left not a footnote but a footprint on American history," said SITES Director Anna R. Cohn. "Many of their stories may not be well known, but their roles and contributions were monumental in shaping our country and its conscience."

The list of Freedom's Sisters honored in the exhibit includes Ella J. Baker, Constance Baker Motley, Shirley Chisholm, Mary Church Terrell, Septima Poinsette Clark, Kathleen Cleaver, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Height, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Barbara Jordan, Mary McLeod Bethune, Rosa Parks, Sonia Sanchez, Coretta Scott King, Betty Shabazz, Harriet Tubman, C. Delores Tucker, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and Ida B. Wells.

The exhibition has been embraced by a prestigious National Committee of Honor. Members of the Freedom's Sisters Committee of Honor include Quincy Jones, Mae Jemison, General Colin Powell, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cathy Hughes, Sheila Johnson, Elizabeth Eckford, Johnetta Cole and a wide range of national dignitaries, reflecting the exhibitions broad appeal. It is expected to attract people of all ages, races, and backgrounds, whether they were a part of the Civil Rights movement themselves, or a student of the movement through stories passed down through family, friends, and history books, and aims to inspire the next generation of leaders.

Organized around four themes - "Dare to Dream," "Inspire Lives" "Serve the Public," and "Look to the Future" - "Freedom's Sisters" is designed especially as an educational tool targeting students. Historical simulations and interactive displays are set up to drive home messages and meanings central to each woman's life.
Click here to download the Freedom's Sisters brochure.

The Freedom's Sisters exhibition is the product of several organizations -- Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services, Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, and Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service -- working together to create this phenomenal educational resource:

Fordlogo Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services is committed to creating opportunities that promote corporate citizenship, philanthropy, volunteerism, and cultural diversity for those who live in the communities where Ford does business. Established in 1949 and made possible by Ford Motor Company profits, Ford Motor Company Fund supports initiatives and institutions that foster innovative education, auto-related safety, and American heritage and legacy. National programs include Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies, which provides high school students with academically rigorous 21st-century learning experiences, and Driving Skills for Life, a teen-focused auto safety initiative. The Ford Volunteer Corps, established in 2005, continues Ford's legacy of caring worldwide. Through the Volunteer Corps, salaried employees, union members, retirees and their families participate in a wide range of volunteer projects in their communities. For more information on programs made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services, visit

Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is home to the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX(R) Theater and the Cincinnati Historical Society Library. It is a nationally recognized educational and research resource and one of the top cultural attractions in the Midwest. Cincinnati Museum Center serves more than one million visitors annually, reaching out to almost 200,000 young people through hands-on exhibits and programs. As a center for the community, more than 700 events are held in the building each year. Originally built in 1933 as the Union Terminal train station, the building is now a national historic landmark and was renovated and reopened as Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990. For information, call (513) 287-7000 or (800) 733-2077 or visit

Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years. SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play. Exhibition descriptions and tour schedules are available at

By Brandy Schaffels Editor

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