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The Baltimore Experience > Virtual Itineraries > African American Heritage


A Lasting Legacy: Baltimore and the African American Experience

The histories of Baltimore and the African American experience is an interwoven tapestry of people, places, and events. African Americans have shaped the city, not just with hands but through expressions of art, culture, faith, and community. Visitors to the city can delve deep into this complicated yet inspiring story spanning centuries.

 

  • Both museum and research facility, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture is dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting the historic, artistic, and cultural contributions of African Americans in Maryland. Permanent and temporary exhibits explore the bonds of family and community, slavery’s hold on the state, and how art and education was used to endure and even overcome oppression.
  • Located in Baltimore’s historic Fell’s Point, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park chronicles African American maritime history. The museum includes exhibits on Frederick Douglass, who lived in Baltimore as an enslaved child and young man before escaping north to freedom. Visitors also explore the life of Isaac Myers, a free-born African American who founded the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company (where the maritime park is located today).
  • The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center holds an impressive collection of personal possessions, letters, and music of the famed musician. Throughout the year, the center hosts music events and educational programs.
  • The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is committed to the study and preservation of African American history. Life-size and life-like wax figures highlight historical and contemporary personalities of African ancestry. The museum honors Baltimore’s own “freedom fighters” who chose to fight for liberty and human rights over their comfort and personal security.
  • Located in the historic Camden Station near Orioles Park, Sports Legends Museum celebrates Maryland’s sporting history. The rich history of the Negro Leagues is explored in a special gallery, highlighting the championship teams, cultural pride, and efforts to break down Major League Baseball's color barrier.
  • Completed in 1851, President Street Station served passengers traveling along the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad. Today the building is home to the Baltimore Civil War Museum. President Street Station and the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad were key components of the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes used by slaves to escape north to free states and Canada. Exhibits at the museum explore how the railroad was used on the journey to freedom. President Street Station is a site on the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
  • The Maryland Historical Society is home to the Paul Henderson Photograph Collection and an exhibit of his work: “Baltimore’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs.” Henderson’s photos document important events, including the protest at the segregated Ford's Theatre in Baltimore. Henderson captured candid and formal portraits of important leaders in the Civil Rights Movement, including Lillie Carroll Jackson (head of the NAACP, 1935-1970) and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
  • Baltimore’s Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of the first cemeteries owned and operated by African Americans. Established in 1872, the cemetery is the final resting place of prominent civil rights activist Lillie Carroll Jackson and Joseph Gans, the first black lightweight boxing champion of the world.
  • The Enoch Pratt Free Library is one of the oldest free public library systems in the nation. The Central Library is home to the Eddie and Sylvia Brown African American Collection. The collection holds fiction and nonfiction resources that pertain to the history and culture of African Americans throughout the African Diaspora.
  • Winding through the historic West Baltimore neighborhood, the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail is an urban walking trail connecting more than 20 sites of significant African American history. Visitors stroll past a rich tapestry of residential and church architecture and learn about Pennsylvania Avenue's special place in history as one of the nation's premier African American entertainment districts. A free map and guide of the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail is available at the Baltimore Visitor Center located at 401 Light Street at the Inner Harbor.
     

In addition to a multitude of museums and historic sites that celebrate African American heritage, the city boasts numerous monuments and statues that honor heroes of the community. During your journey, pause and take a look at these artistic expressions of honor and appreciation.

  • Located in front of City Hall, the Negro Soldier’s Monument is dedicated to African Americans who fought and died in war.
  • Baltimore sculptor Reuben Kramer created the large bronze statue of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall that stands at the corner of South Sharp and Pratt streets. Marshall, a native of Baltimore, was the first African American to serve on the court.
  • At the intersection of Pennsylvania and West Lafayette avenues in West Baltimore, two monuments stand honoring the contributions of African Americans to the world of music. A statue of Billie Holiday honors the legendary jazz singer who lived in Baltimore when she was young. She often returned to perform at the Royal Theatre, an important stop along the Chitlin’ Circuit of African American jazz performers. The theater, demolished in 1971, is remembered with the Royal Theatre Marquee Monument.
  • The face of Frederick Douglass, cast in bronze, creates an indelible impression at the entrance to the Douglass-Myers Maritime Park. Sculptor Marc Andre Robinson created the piece, which was installed when the facility opened in 2006. 
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