Black History Month: Slave Pen At Freedom Center
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is a museum in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, based on the history of the Underground Railroad. While Maysville Kentucky and Mason County have shining examples of the contributions it made in helping escaped slaves reach their freedom, it unfortunately also played a negative part in this period of American history as well. This is evident by the Freedom Center's principal artifact, a 21 by 30 foot, two-story slave pen (pictured above) that was locally built in 1830 and was used to house slaves being shipped to auction. There's no overlooking it either. It fills most of the space on the second-floor atrium and can even be seen from the street outside. In many ways it is the anchor of the Freedom Center, reminding visitors that although great strides have been made in civil rights, we should never forget the attrocities of the past.
The structure itself was built in 1830 and belonged to a Captain John Anderson who was a Revolutionary War soldier. He lived on a farm in nearby Dover, Kentucky, where the slave pen stood before being moved to the Freedom Center. It has eight small windows, a stone floor, and a fireplace for cooking and warmth. Sometimes slaves were housed in the tiny log building for several months, waiting for favorable market conditions and higher selling prices, sometimes chained to a row of wrought iron rings that are on display in the cabin as well.
"The pen is powerful," says Carl B. Westmoreland, the museum curator. "It has the feeling of hallowed ground. When people stand inside, they speak in whispers. It is a sacred place. I believe it is here to tell a story - the story of the internal slave trade to future generations." This effect is reinforced by a wooden slab inside the pen where the names of some of the slaves are written. These names come from local records of the slave traders of the period.
More about the Freedom Center