The museum's location recognizes the significant role of Cincinnati, where thousands of slaves escaped to freedom by crossing the Ohio River, in the history of the Underground Railroad.
The Freedom Center opened to the public on August 3, 2004, and the official opening ceremonies took place on August 23.
The exterior features rough travertine stone from Tivoli, Italy on the east and west faces of the building, and copper panels on the north and south. According to one of its primary architects, the late Walter Blackburn, the building's "undulating quality" illustrates the fields and the river that escaping slaves crossed to reach freedom.
The building also houses the John Parker Library which houses a collection of multimedia materials about the Underground Railroad and freedom-related issues.