Honoring the African American Male Journey: Achievements of Excellence

Ryan Coogler, an American film director, producer, and screenwriter — best known as the director of the 2018 Marvel superhero film, “Black Panther” — is one of the men featured in the exhibit “MEN OF CHANGE: POWER. TRIUMPH. TRUTH.,” now on display at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC). “Black Panther” broke numerous box office records and became the highest-grossing films of all time by a black director. Artwork by Alfred Conteh.


Power. Triumph. Truth.

These positive, history-changing attributes are the common threads creating a variety of inspirational stories about 27-plus African American men showcased in a new traveling exhibit launched recently at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC).

“MEN OF CHANGE: POWER. TRIUMPH. TRUTH.,” which made its national debut at the NURFC in mid-August, highlights the stories of more than two dozen revolutionary men – including Muhammed Ali, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates. W.E.B. DuBois and Kendrick Lamar – whose personal and professional life journeys have altered the history and culture of the country. The men’s achievements are woven within the legacy and traditions of the African American journey; achievements of excellence reached in spite of societal barriers.

The traveling exhibition was developed by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service, with the financial support of the Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services.

“This new and exciting exhibit highlights the accomplishments of these gentlemen and tells their stories from an intergenerational and artistic perspective. They are men who took charge of their identities, men who were determined not to be held back by the societal stereotypes of their respective times,” says National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Deputy Director Jacqueline Dace

The exhibit features inspiring stories of African American men involved in careers in a variety of disciplines, from sports and business to religion, politics and science. “It’s a great way for us to begin to change the negative stereotypical narrative too many people believe due to false information. We’re putting these individual men in front of visitors and the community, and they get the opportunity to see African American men in their rightful light,” Dace notes. According to Marquette Folley, content director for the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in Washington, D.C., the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is the perfect venue for launching “MEN OF CHANGE: POWER. TRIUMPH. TRUTH.”

“The Freedom Center is an important cultural presence in our nation and is known for speaking authentically to the Cincinnati community as well as the country. This exhibition was born out of an awareness of the atmosphere of our civilization at time when the African American male is looked at as dangerous, fear-inducing. What was clearly necessary was a chance for our nation to interrogate that story with the curtain, so to speak, pulled open, exposing a landscape of innovation, aspiration and leadership qualities. So, the idea of doing an exhibition like this seemed right.”

“MEN OF CHANGE: POWER. TRIUMPH. TRUTH.” will run through Dec. 1 in the Freedom Center’s third-floor Skirball Gallery. Admission is $10 with general admission, $5 for members.


The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is located at 50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati, OH 45202. For more information, visit www.freedomcenter.org.