Sunday, January 18, 2004

History is personal at Freedom Center

By Maggie Downs
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Denita V. Powell is program manager for the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
(Joseph Fuqua II photo)
An African-American history class at Wittenberg University married Denita Powell's two passions - history and education.

Now Powell, 29, uses those skills through her work at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center as the audience research and public programs manager.

"That class made history more than just dates and facts. It made me want to explore how people overcome challenges and their accomplishments," said the Pleasant Ridge resident.

"It's exciting for me to help other people discover history, too."

In her role at the Freedom Center, Powell researches the opinions of the public to decide what programs would be most interesting and effective. She's also planning the calendar for the center's inaugural year, including lectures, music acts and educational programs.

"This is important because we're not just talking about the underground railroad here," she said. "We're exploring freedom. And not just here, but all around the world."

It's personal for Powell.

Her great-great-great-grandfather was a slave. And his child became a schoolteacher in Alabama when classes were still segregated.

"I'm a product of these people who endured slavery and segregation," she said. "Helping people now really makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something and making a difference."

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