The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum

Nneka Iweanya

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The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is a wax museum in Baltimore, Maryland featuring prominent African-American historical figures. It was established in 1983, in a downtown storefront on Saratoga Street. The museum uses life-sized wax manikins to capture the significance of African-American history and how it changed society today.

The museum is currently located on 1601 East North Avenue in a renovated firehouse, a Victorian Mansion, and two former apartment dwellings that provide nearly 30,000 square feet of exhibit and office space. The exhibits feature over 100 wax figures and scenes, a full model slave ship exhibit which portrays the 400-year history of the Atlantic Slave Trade, an exhibit on the role of youth in making history, and a Maryland room highlighting the contributions to African American history by notable Marylanders.

The National Great Blacks in Wax museum is Baltimore’s first wax museum and the first wax museum of African American history in the nation. The museum was started as a grassroots operation by Dr. Elmer Martin and his wife Dr. Joanna Martin.

The idea of Blacks in Wax started with a few wax figures that were taken around to various schools, community centers, and malls. The museum was originally sponsored exclusively by Dr. Elmer Martin, his wife Dr. Joanna Martin, and donations from the community. In the early days, Dr. Elmer Martin was forced to ask his wife to sell her wedding ring to keep the moving exhibit going. However, it received national recognition in 1983 when the founding members were allotted grants, loans, and endowments to open a permanent exhibition. In 1988, Blacks in Wax received its permanent home on the 1600 block of North Avenue in the neighborhood of Oliver.

The site was originally home to a firehouse that was converted into a showhouse. In 2004, The Blacks in Wax Museum was recognized by the U.S. Congress and became The National Blacks in Wax Museum.

 

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The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum