The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in August 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Our purpose is to tell the story of the struggle for freedom in the United States through exhibits and programs that focus on America's battle to rid itself of the ugly scourge of slavery and treat all its citizens with respect and dignity. The frame of reference of the museum is the compelling drama of the Underground Railroad. This was not an actual railroad, with tracks and cars and engines, but instead a secret network of escape routes that existed in the years leading up to the Civil War. One major escape route passed through the region in and around Cincinnati. These paths was used by escaping slaves fleeing those states where slavery was legal; along the way, they were often given food, shelter and guidance by sympathetic citizens who opposed slavery.
The underlying theme of the Underground Railroad, which we reinforce with programs, presentations and children-focused activities, is that the path to freedom -- historically and in contemporary times -- is a constant struggle requiring courage, perseverance and cooperation among people of diverse backgrounds willing to help one another.
In addition to five major permanent exhibitions, we present a full calendar of changing exhibits, programs and activities throughout the year. Our Gift Shop offers a wide array of books, recordings and unique gift items. Our North Star Cafe, open for lunch on Tuesdays through Sunday, is a relaxing place for our guests to enjoy a delicious meal at a bargain price.