Saturday, April 17, 2004

Freedom Center sets debut date

By Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center will open Monday, Aug. 23 with a procession, festival and public dedication. Public previews of the center will begin earlier in the month.

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The date coincides with the United Nations' annual "International Day of Commemoration for the Abolition of Slavery" and the celebration will recognize both the abolition of slavery in the past, and today's struggle to free more than 27 million people enslaved worldwide.

"We are so pleased that after nearly 10 years of planning and preparation we finally have this chance to celebrate the opening," says Spencer Crew, the center's executive director. "This is a celebration for all those who support what we believe in and we will be inviting freedom-loving communities everywhere to join us."

Carol Hill and John Crawford install Douglas wood floors in the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
(Tony Jones photo)
Underground Railroad communities in North America will be invited to bring a sample of their historic soil to a procession starting at the Kentucky end of the Roebling Suspension Bridge and culminating in the deposit of soils in the Freedom Center's park. The procession will go from noon to 2 p.m., immediately followed by the Festival of Freedom.

The festival will be similar to last August's groundbreaking and will include performers in dance and storytelling. Blues, rock, jazz and gospel music will surround families as they eat and take part in activities around the family stage.

Following the festival, from 8 to 9:45 p.m., the public dedication will be held at the intersection of Second and Walnut streets. Jumbotrons located throughout the riverfront will broadcast festivities. It will end with a reenactment of a slave crossing the river to freedom.

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