The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum opened in 1983. It was set up by Drs. Elmer and Joanne Martin as a cultural and educational institution that focusses solely on the study and preservation of African American history. It is a unique organisation as it represents the histories it interprets through the use of life size wax figures, presented in historical settings. The museum has several objectives, including to increase interest in African American history, to use inspiring examples from history to motivate young people to achieve, and to improve race relations by dispelling myths of racial inequalities. The museum attracts around 300,000 visitors annually.
The museum features thirty-five installations of 'great blacks' in a range of scenarios. These cover a large temporal and geographic span, beginning with representations of key figures in pre-slavery Africa, through to dioramas of the space race and modern science. The key focus is on black achievement through all sectors of society, including politics, the military, sport and business.
Many of these installations link to the history of slavery in the United States. They examine the Middle Passage and captivity, plantation life and resistance with graphic displays of the instruments of brutality utilised in the system of enslavement. Others depict key characters in African American journeys to freedom including Henry 'Box' Brown and W.E.B. Dubois. The abolition movement is incorporated into the installations with the characters of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. The Underground Railroad is also depicted in a display with Harriet Tubman, amongst others. Many of these dioramas also incorporate models of children.
The displays continue to chart the twentieth century, examining the Civil Rights Movement, Black Power, and the Jim Crow Laws. Some of these dioramas illustrate the abhorrent nature of the racial violence that dominated the United States, such as lynching, in graphic detail.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture was created out of the passion and activism of businessman Reginald F. Lewis. Lewis rose from humble beginnings to earn a place at Harvard Law School, establish the first African American law firm on Wall Street and become the wealthiest African American in the US. In 1993, he died suddenly after a short illness. During his illness, he made known his desire to create a museum of African American culture and after his death, the non-profit foundation started in his memory accomplished that.
The museum is located in downtown Baltimore close to one of the several locations of former slave pens. The collection 'explores the African American experience and tells the universal story of the struggle for liberty, equality and self-determination.' The main collection is housed on the third floor and is divided into three sections: Building Maryland, Building America; The Strength of the Mind; Things Hold Lines Connect. Building Maryland, Building America has a heavy focus on slavery, explaining the roles of the enslaved in urban and rural environments. Unlike the cotton plantations of the Deep South, Maryland slavery ranged widely: tobacco plantations, shipyards, oyster shucking and iron furnaces to name a few.
Throughout the exhibitions, the interpretive text is supplemented with interactive displays, video and audio presentations and artwork. The overreaching message of the museum is that African Americans have contributed to the US since their initial forced arrival and have worked tirelessly to better their plight; through emancipation, the right to vote, the Civil Rights Movement and into the more recent social movements. The museum does not shy away from presenting the brutal side of slavery and Jim Crow, with slave collars, shackles, reward notices and video in connection to lynching are sensitively displayed.
The ground floor of the museum hosts temporary exhibitions and there is dedicated education space for the many school trips they host during the year. The museum also provides learning resources to assist with the local curriculum, offering lesson plans and outreach sessions in local schools. Throughout the year, the museum hosts a diverse range of events. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday with a small admission fee.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park was established in 2003, the 100th anniversary of Tubman's death, in rural Dorchester County. In 2017 the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Centre was officially opened. The visitor centre was a collaborative project between the US National Park Service and the Maryland Park Service. The building houses exhibition space, a research library and gift shop. Also on location is a public pavilion and legacy garden.
The design of the site was built around the importance of northward movement in the slave's quest for freedom. The legacy garden stretches out north between the buildings, offering an expansive and hopeful view. The view south is more enclosed and fragmented, reflecting the intolerable existence for those enslaved. The visitor centre houses an exhibition that chronicles the life and accomplishments of Tubman; her birth into slavery, escaping and subsequently returning to free friends and family, her work as a Union spy and her activism after the Civil War. The story is told through a combination of interpretive text, videos, murals, dioramas and her own powerful words.
The park and visitor centre are open seven days a week and are free to the public. The visitor centre also provides further information on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway Driving Tour, which has 36 stops throughout the Eastern Shore of Maryland linked to Tubman's life.
The Harriet Tubman Museum is a small museum located in Cambridge, Maryland, a few miles from where Harriet Tubman was born. The museum originated as a community organization which was planning a single three-day event honouring Harriet Tubman in 1983. Over the years, the Harriet Tubman Organisation has adjusted its goals; today its mission 'is to develop programs and services for children and families and to preserve the history and memory of Harriet Tubman by offering the general public an interpretive history of her achievements.'
The museum's permanent exhibition is a combination of interpretive text and artefacts, many recovered from nearby plantations. The artefacts on display represent the objects that the enslaved would have used in their daily lives, as well as more brutal symbols of slavery like shackles. The museum, which accepts admission donations, is usually open Tuesday - Saturday. Through the museum, visitors can also organise trips to the actual property where Tubman was born and worked. The museum hosts school groups as well as a range of special events throughout the year.
Formerly the Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site was constructed in 1875 and opened as the Banneker-Douglass Museum (BDM) in 1984. It was named after Benjamin Banneker – a free-born African American scientist and mathematician. He protested strongly against slavery, and compared the fight of the colonists to that of the enslaved people in America when writing to Thomas Jefferson in 1791. The other namesake was Frederick Douglass, a political activist, writer, and famous abolitionist who documented his experiences both escaping from and fighting against slavery. The museum is dedicated to preserving Maryland’s African American Heritage. It contains a range of both permanent and temporary exhibitions. In light of this legacy, the BDM focuses on a community-based approach to building collections and exhibitions and in providing tours, public programs, and other services. The museum's permanent exhibition is a celebration of African Americans in Maryland; providing an overview of African American history in Maryland from 1633 to the present day. Specifically the exhibition looks at Maryland’s first African American settler, Mathias De Sousa. It includes Benjamin Banneker’s almanacs, used as an anti-slavery protest to Thomas Jefferson, as well as a recording of Frederick Douglass’s speeches against racism and slavery. The museum presently partners with Anne Arundel County Public Library, offering programs and workshops at AACPL branches. It also offers guided tours of both the permanent and temporary exhibition.