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Extraordinary African American Women Celebrated in Interactive Exhibit



BIRMINGHAM, AL., July 21, 2009—It would be difficult to imagine the course of American history without them: Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad; Rosa Parks and her brave refusal in 1955 to relinquish her seat on a Montgomery city bus; Fannie Lou Hamer and her courageous stand at a 1968 political convention.  These stories of courage and commitment are among the many featured in Freedom’s Sisters; a collaboration between Ford Motor Company, the Cincinnati Museum Center, and the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES).  The interactive exhibit showcases 20 extraordinary African American women, inviting visitors to bear witness to some of the most important moments in our nation’s history.


"From Mary McLeod Bethune to Dorothy Height, the amazing women of Freedom’s Sisters inspire and motivate all Americans to build a better world,” said Pamela Alexander, director, Ford Motor Company Fund.  “Ford is deeply proud to present this important, educational and uplifting exhibition.”


Activities in support of the exhibition begin Friday, July 24 with a Black Tie Gala for exhibition supporters.  Honored guests include Birmingham native and Freedom's Sister Dr. Sonia Sanchez and Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Frazier who will emcee the event.  The exhibition opens at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on July 25, 2009.  It remains there until October 4, 2009, and then travels on a three-year national tour to five additional cities.  A variety of engaging educational and community outreach programs are planned during the exhibition’s run in Birmingham.  Visit the Institute’s Web site at for detailed program information.

"How wonderful it is to return home for the Freedom's Sisters exhibit,” said Sonia Sanchez, world renowned poet, and Freedom's Sister.  "I am so glad that Birmingham decided to host.  It shows the forward moving thinking not only of Birmingham but also of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.  I look forward to seeing everyone and being in the company of such great women."


The exhibition has been embraced by a prestigious National Committee of Honor.  Members of the Freedom's Sisters Committee of Honor include Quincy Jones, Mae Jemison, General Colin Powell, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Cathy Hughes, Sheila Johnson, Elizabeth Eckford, Johnetta Cole and a wide range of national dignitaries, reflecting the exhibition's broad appeal.


“These 20 women left not a footnote but a footprint on American history,” said SITES Director Anna R. Cohn.  “Many of their stories may not be well known, but their roles and contributions were monumental in shaping our country and its conscience.”


Organized around four themes – “Dare to Dream,” “Inspire Lives” “Serve the Public” and “Look to the Future” – Freedom’s Sisters is designed especially as an educational tool targeting students.  Historical simulations and interactive displays are being set up to drive home messages and meanings central to each woman’s life. 

Freedom's Sisters

Ella J. Baker                                                    Barbara Jordan

Constance Baker Motley                                  Mary McLeod Bethune

Shirley Chisholm                                             Rosa Parks

Mary Church Terrell                                        Sonia Sanchez

Septima Poinsette Clark                                   Coretta Scott King

Kathleen Cleaver                                             Betty Shabazz

Myrlie Evers-Williams                                     Harriet Tubman

Fannie Lou Hamer                                           C. Delores Tucker

Dorothy Height                                                Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

Charlayne Hunter-Gault                                 Ida B. Wells



Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services is committed to creating opportunities that promote corporate citizenship, philanthropy, volunteerism and cultural diversity for those who live in the communities where Ford operates.  Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2009 and made possible by funding from Ford Motor Company, Ford Motor Company Fund supports initiatives and institutions that foster innovative education, auto-related safety, and American heritage and legacy.  National programs include Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies, which provides high school students with academically rigorous 21st century learning experiences, and Driving Skills for Life, a teen-focused auto safety initiative.  The Ford Volunteer Corps, established in 2005, continues Ford's legacy of caring worldwide.  Through the Volunteer Corps, Ford employees and retirees participate in a wide range of volunteer projects in their communities.  For more information on programs made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services, visit



Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is home to the Cincinnati History Museum, Duke Energy Children's Museum, the Museum of Natural History & Science, the Robert D. Lindner Family OMNIMAX® Theater, and the Cincinnati Historical Society Library.  It is a nationally recognized educational and research resource and one of the top cultural attractions in the Midwest.  Cincinnati Museum Center serves more than one million visitors annually, reaching out to almost 200,000 young people through hands-on exhibits and programs.  As a center for the community, more than 700 events are held in the building each year.  Originally built in 1933 as the Union Terminal train station, the building is a national historic landmark and was renovated and reopened as Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990.  For information, call (513) 287-7000 or 1-800-733-2077 or visit




SITES has been sharing the wealth of Smithsonian collections and research programs with millions of people outside Washington, D.C., for more than 50 years.  SITES connects Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history, which are shown wherever people live, work and play.  For more information, including exhibition descriptions and tour schedules, visit



In honor of the courageous struggle against racism and segregation in the South, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) was erected as a monumental guidepost for reconciliation and equality for all mankind.  Its mission is to promote civil and human rights worldwide through education.  Its vision is to be the premier educational center for understanding, healing and respect for all.  Since opening in 1992, the Institute has used multimedia to enhance its facility while telling the story of the American Civil Rights Movement.  In January 2009, BCRI completed the first major renovation of its museum galleries by expanding its story beyond the Birmingham Movement and identifying gains made in the city since that time.  The Richard Arrington, Jr. Resource Gallery houses the facility’s Oral History recording studio and provides computer terminals containing excerpts from BCRI’s extensive Oral History Collection and links to related human rights organizations.  Launched in July 2009, the Institute’s new Web site continues to provide BCRI with an opportunity to reach an international audience.  

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Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Program Schedule:




July 25                         10:00 am

Freedom’s Sisters exhibition opens to public—a collaboration between Smithsonian Institute Touring Exhibition Service (SITES), Ford Motor Company Fund, and Cincinnati Museum Center, this exhibition brings to life 20 African American women, from key 19th-century historical figures to contemporary leaders who fought for equality for all Americans—free and open to the public through October 4, 2009—call (866) 328-9696, ext. 234 or visit the BCRI Web site at for more information


Freedom’s Sisters Essay Contest opens for students in grades 4-8—call (866) 328-9696, ext. 234 or visit the BCRI Web site at  for more information


July 30                         6:00 pm until 8:00 pm

The Women Gather II Spoken Word Performance—featuring local women writers presenting poetry to highlight the women featured in Freedom’s Sisters


July 31                         6:00 pm until 7:30 pm

Heritage Alive! “Community of Readers”family literacy program featuring books focusing on the women from the Freedom’s Sisters exhibition




August 1                                 10:00 am until 12:00 pm                                                                                                                               Freedom’s Sisters Teacher Workshop—introducing area teachers to the many facets of the Freedom’s Sisters exhibition—the workshop includes brainstorming sessions about lesson planning and a tour of the exhibition—workshop runs from 10:00 am until12:00 pm—Registration required—call (866) 328-9696, ext. 246


August 13                   6:16 pm until 8:16 pm

Sixteenth & Sixth Adult Series:  “Earrings Under the Beret”—after-hours event focusing on the Freedom’s Sisters exhibition and highlighting the role of women during the Black Power Movement and the specific influence of Kathleen Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez and Betty Shabazz—this is a special Sixteenth & Sixth and does not require an admission fee


August 15                  10:00 am until 12:00 pm

Freedom’s Sisters Teacher Workshop 2this session is a repeat of the August 1 workshop—as with the first session, the workshop includes brainstorming sessions about lesson planning and a tour of the exhibition-- workshop runs from 10:00 am until12:00 pm—Registration required—call (866) 328-9696, ext. 246




September 1                10:00 am until 11:00 am                                                                                                                   

Heritage Alive!—a  literacy program recommended for grades K-3 offered every Tuesday beginning September 1 through October 26, 2009 at 10 am—texts used for this program focus

on one or more of the women featured in the Freedom’s Sisters exhibition—reservations required—call (866) 328-9696, ext. 228


September 3               12:00 pm until 1:00 pm                        

Brown Bag Lunch Series:  Focusing on Freedom’s Sisters and the Civil Rights Movement—this program addresses the lives of civil rights pioneers featured in the Freedom’s Sisters exhibition:  Ella Jo Baker, Septima Poinsette Clark, Fannie Lou Hamer and Rosa Louise McCauley Parks—bring your own lunch, BCRI provides the sodas


September 9   

Freedom’s Sisters Essay Contest—last day to submit entries 


September 24              6:00 pm until 8:00 pm                        

A Town Hall Meeting on Women’s Issues—hosted by BCRI and involving several community organizations




October 4                    5:00 pm

Freedom’s Sisters exhibition closes to the public


Listed above are public programs offered at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in conjunction with the exhibition Freedom’s Sisters.  For additional information, call (866) 328-9696, ext. 211.

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