Freedom Center hires Saks manager to lead corporate, private philanthropy

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has reached outside normal traditions to fill a key leadership team vacancy.

Eric Newsom, a former Saks Fifth Avenue executive, started May 16 as vice president of philanthropy.

Newsom joins the Freedom Center as it begins to update its museum experience, expand programming and directly address current and ongoing social justice issues in a new era of civil and human rights.

Eric Newsom

Newsom comes to the Freedom Center after 12 years as vice president and general manager for Saks Fifth Avenue.

“We’re excited to add Eric’s talent to our organization. His exceptional leadership ability and well-honed executive skillset will move us closer to meeting the high expectations we have set for our institution and promised to our community and constituents,” said Woodrow Keown, Jr., president and COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “Eric’s passion for pursuing greater respect for the dignity and worth of all human beings and his commitment to justice and equity will help advance the mission of the Freedom Center.”

Newsom fills a vacancy created when Ashley Jordan left as senior director of philanthropy in September 2021. Jordan is now CEO of the African American Museum in Philadelphia.

The Freedom Center uses lessons of the past to inspire a more equitable future. Since the civil unrest of the summer of 2020, more organizations and individuals have taken up the cause of social justice and have looked to the Freedom Center as a resource for this common goal. Through its thought-provoking and inspirational exhibits and robust programming that brings attention to and unpacks issues of systemic racism, bias and inequity, the Freedom Center continues to put injustice and unfreedoms on notice.

The Freedom Center said Newsom will help leverage corporate and private philanthropy opportunities to expand the Freedom Center’s reach, capabilities and impact.

“I am excited about this opportunity, passionate about our mission and committed to delivering excellence through hard work, dedication and strengthened partnerships within the Freedom Center and beyond,” said Newsom.

Newsom joins the Freedom Center as it pursues a bold new vision, more directly and dynamically bridging the gap from past to present to address the ongoing social justice issues as a new generation of civil rights activists take the lead.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened in August 2004 on the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati. 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. Partnerships include Historians Against Slavery, Polaris Project, Free the Slaves, US Department of State and International Justice Mission. In 2014, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center launched a new online resource in the fight against modern slavery,

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