By Elizabeth Pierce


Cincinnati Museum Center

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Woodrow Keown Jr. Photo provided

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC) has named Woodrow “Woody” Keown Jr. president and chief operating officer.  

Keown follows Dion Brown in the role.

Among his responsibilities, Keown will lead growth in revenue and contributions as the institution celebrates its 15th year of operation with a robust schedule of exhibitions. These include “Motel X, Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello” and the current exhibition “Men of Change,” a collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service.    

This year also marks the 55th anniversary of Freedom Summer, which NURFC is commemorating with a series of lectures and outreach.

“The mission of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is needed now more than ever,” said Keown. “As we strive for inclusive freedom of all people, we look to learn from the lessons of the past. I’m emboldened to step into this role as we continue to be that beacon of hope, freedom and change for our community – locally, nationally and globally.”

Keown joins NURFC building on a career as an entrepreneur, business investor, philanthropist, corporate executive and community leader. He has been a leader in the Greater Cincinnati community, serving as part of the Jordan Crossing, Bond Hill & Roselawn Revitalization Fund, Allen Temple AME Church and Montgomery Community Church. Additionally, Keown is a mentor through Winton Hills Academy and former board member of the Dan Beard Council of Boy Scouts of America and former Procter & Gamble executive.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in August 2004 on the banks of the OhioRiver in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Since then, more than 1.3 million people have visited its permanent and changing exhibits and public programs, inspiring everyone to take courageous steps for freedom. Two million people have utilized educational resources online at, working to connect the lessons of the Underground Railroad to inform and inspire today’s global and local fight for freedom. 

For more information about NURFC, visit

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