A non-descript white brick building on East North Avenue, in Baltimore, holds life-sized Black history treasures that evoke a gamut of emotions to those who long to know about their ancestors’ struggles and triumphs.
That desire to spotlight Black history is probably why Elmer and Joanne Martin founded the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in 1980. According to the museum website, the couple used the money they had saved up to buy a house and purchased four wax figures.
In 1988, the website explains, the Martins celebrated the grand-opening of their current location. It boasts more than 100 wax figures and has more than 300,000 annual visitors.
Upon entering the three-story museum, visitors are greeted by a large gray elephant with a Black man perched on its back as if ready for battle. The display immediately piques your curiosity as to what else the place has to offer.
And it offers a lot.
After watching a short video featuring the Martins, visitors are escorted to a replica of a slave ship complete with Middle Passage history given by a well-versed tour guide. The guide explains how 500,000 people from the continent of Africa were crammed onto slave ships like sardines and shipped to America and other parts of the world, forced to become slaves.
While touring the replica of the ship, you are shocked at the tightness of the vessel’s quarters. Men who refused to submit to the way of the White man were shackled and eventually “broken” into submission or killed because of their defiance.
Some of the wax figures in this part of the museum featured decapitated heads, hands and feet.
Not surprising, feelings of sadness, anger and hatred will well up inside you and almost choke you.
Your emotions quickly turn to pride in some of the more uplifting areas of the museum. The Egyptian room includes finely-dressed wax figures of warrior Shaka Zulu, Queen of Sheba and others. Continue to stroll through the facility and you come to present African history makers including Daymond John and the other founders of the FUBU clothing line, the first African-American astronaut, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Billie Holiday and Madame C.J. Walker, the first Black female billionaire
Donald Patterson Jr., founder and executive director of Pittsburgh’s Next Generation of Music Legends, organized the trip from Pittsburgh to the Wax Museum.
Despite the need for better lighting, a parking lot and a cafeteria, a walk through the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum should be mandatory for school-aged children of all ages, colors and creeds to learn about the phenomenal achievements of Black people.
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