Spencer R. Crew, executive director and CEO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati from 2001–07, built a museum from the ground up, conquering the difficult task of creating exhibits with few available historical African-American artifacts. He used oral histories, photographs, video, and a recreated train station with separate “white’” and “black” entrances to tell the migration story. Crew made a name for himself as a curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. His 1987 exhibition “Field to Factory” documented the migration of southern blacks to northern cities in the years between the two World Wars and sparked a national discussion on the impact of migration and race. In 1994, he was named director of the museum, becoming the youngest—and the first African American—to head a major Smithsonian museum. During the nine years he spent as director, he also developed the Smithsonian Institution’s popular permanent exhibition on American presidents and oversaw the preservation of the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” At each institution, Crew has made history accessible and exciting to the general public. He is a professor at George Mason University.
Spencer R. Crew
Graduate School–New Brunswick 1973, 1979
Hall of Distinguished Alumni Class of