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History and heritage come to life at Baltimore museum

A wealth of knowledge lies behind the walls and through the doors of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum.
A wealth of knowledge lies behind the walls and through the doors of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum.
Digital photo by V.M. Oliver-Lawson

It started in 1983 as a store-front on W. Saratoga Street in Baltimore. Now it has blossomed to become one of the premier museums in the area. It is the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, now located at 1601 E. North Avenue. The museum, once a traveling institution, is the brainchild of the late Dr. Elmer Martin and Dr. Joanne Martin.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014 found this writer feeling a case of the doldrums, upon hearing of the death of poet and activist Maya Angelou. Feeling the need to shake off the blues, I ventured to the museum and was pleasantly surprised at the expansion which has occurred since last I visited.

A docent, Tim Saunders of Renaissance Productions and Tours (, was leading a group of sixth graders from Elijah Stroud Middle School MS#53 in Brooklyn, NY on a tour of the museum.

As I attached myself to the tour and briefly spoke with teachers, Africa Dunn-Taylor and Monica Saladi, I became fascinated by the educational opportunities the museum offers.

The tour provides a wealth of information as it highlights the greatness and the journey of the African-American heritage in the struggle for freedom and equality. The wax figures, made of bees wax and very detail-oriented, represent the highs and lows of the struggle of a dynamic group of people. There is representation from all aspects of achievement from education, entrepreneurship, sports, politics, science, entertainment, humanitarianism and more.

There are so many wax figures, each with a story to tell. The students learned about Hannibal, Carter G. Woodson, W.E.B. Dubois, Haile Selassie,Thomas Garrett, Henry 'Box' Brown, Harriet Tubman, Eubie Blake, Billie Holliday, Dorothy Height, FUBU's Damond John, and so many other notable and lesser-known African-Americans.

The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is a history lesson in itself as it moves from the ancient civilizations of Africa to slavery to Jim Crow to Civil Rights to contemporary times. (There is even a Maryland room to highlight the achievements of the history makers at the local and state levels).

One of the other patrons, Henry Witherspoon, a native Baltimorean, said his visit was nice. He had no idea there was so much information housed within the NGBIW's walls.

As one moves throughout the museum, there are constant reminders of greatness, the struggle and walking in the footsteps of ancestors.

If you have not visited the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, you owe it to yourself to discover the gems that lie behind its doors.

The museum hours of operation are: Tuesday through Saturday 9:00 am - 6:00 pm and Sundays 12:00 noon -6:00 pm with special hours during the month of February (Black History Month).

The museum can be reached at 410-563-3404. The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum's website is

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