Baltimore has a proud African American history woven into the city’s fabric. There are plenty of ways to celebrate this legacy, learn about the legends who once called Baltimore home, such as abolitionist Frederick Douglass, jazz phenom Billie Holiday and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and trace history at museums dedicated to telling the African American story.
Explore the lives of Maryland African Americans dating back to the 18th century at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. Just one block from the beautiful Inner Harbor, this museum has a permanent collection of more than 10,000 objects and temporary special exhibitions.
Baltimore’s National Great Blacks In Wax Museum, located near the legendary Pennsylvania Avenue, is the only wax museum dedicated to the African American experience. Founded in 1983, the museum’s 10,000-square-foot facilities feature more than 100 life-like figures of civil rights leaders, cultural icons and historical scenes like the full-scale model of a slave ship.
Head to the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum in the waterfront Fell’s Point neighborhood to discover the history of the first African American-owned shipyard in the country. A rich, interactive experience for families and history lovers of all ages, this national heritage site recounts Douglass’ life as a young man in the shipyards and what it takes to be a ship builder.
The B&O Railroad Museum details the history of American railroading and last year opened a new exhibit called The Underground Railroad: Freedom Seekers on the B&O Railroad. Located in the museum’s historic Mt. Clare Station – a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site and the exact location through which eight Freedom Seekers, including Henry “Box” Brown and William and Ellen Craft, traveled – the exhibition examines the role of the physical railroad in the Underground Railroad network and gives an intimate look at the lives and journeys of 27 individuals who sought freedom from slavery along the B&O.
Situated on the campus of Morgan State University, the largest of Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges & Universities, the James E. Lewis Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of African American art. Exhibitions have included works by African American quilters of Baltimore, abstract painter Alma Roberts, sculptor Chakaia Booker and artist Elizabeth Catlett, who concentrated on the Black female experience.
Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson was a former Baltimore Chapter NAACP president and civil rights activist. Upon her death she bequeathed her four-story row home in Bolton Hill, where civil rights campaigns were often organized, as a museum about the battle against racial prejudice. Today the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum houses six galleries filled with drawings, paintings, letters, photographs and historical documents related to the Civil Rights Movement.
Written by Deanna Barclay, Senior Manager of Content, Visit Baltimore. For more information, head to baltimore.org.
Photo Courtesy of Visit Baltimore.