Art and Inspiration

“The Dancer” bronze piece by artist Richmond Barthe.

Photography by Catie Viox


An opportunity to see one of the largest privately owned African-American art and history collections is just one reason to visit Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center this winter.

On view through March, the Kinsey African American Art & History Collection showcases the art, artifacts and documents collected by Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, who have a passion for African American history, art and culture. The collection was last seen in Cincinnati 10 years ago. “We are honored to return to Cincinnati with an even larger collection that is especially important during these critical times for people to gain a deeper understanding of our history as a nation,” Bernard Kinsey said.

“The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African.

Visitors will see work by artists such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence and Richard Mayhew. Archival materials highlight luminaries like Frederick Douglass, Zora Neale Hurston and Malcolm X. All in all, the exhibit spans 400 years of history.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center consistently hosts a large crowd to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and offers free general admission on Monday, January 15. On January 13, Christopher Miller, the center’s manager of program initiatives, will give a free 20-minute gallery talk at 1:30 p.m. entitled “Have We Achieved MLK’s Dream?”

Unique to Cincinnati, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center aims to be a beacon illuminating freedom around the globe. Sitting on the banks of the Ohio River, once the boundary between north and south, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center reveals stories about freedom’s heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, challenging and inspiring guests to take courageous steps of freedom.

“Old Masai Woman” bronze sculpture by Ed Dwight.

The center’s ongoing lecture series and gallery talks raise a variety of issues. In February, the center will host a screening and discussion of the documentary film “Green Book Chronicles,” which focuses on the Green Book travel guide series published from 1936 to 1967, which helped African-Americans travel safely in the U.S. and abroad during the Jim Crow era.

On Thursday, February 1, The John and Francie Pepper Freedom Lecture Series will feature Nikki Taylor, Howard University professor, historian and author of “Driven Toward Madness: The Fugitive Slave Margaret Garner and Tragedy on the Ohio.” The story of Garner, a runaway slave who killed her toddler daughter to keep her out of slavery, inspired Toni Morrison’s novel “Beloved.”

While Americans may consider slavery a thing of the past, there are 40 million people enslaved now around the world. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center works to bring awareness to slavery, while providing a space for people to have open dialogues. 

Pieces from the center’s “Invisible: Slavery Today” exhibit.


The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is located at 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, call 513.333.7500, email or visit