Guest Author - Donna Ledbetter
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is one of the nation’s most revered institutions of African-American history, and it is located right in the MidAtlantic. This Baltimore museum is small compared to other more frequented museums in the city like the Walter’s Art Gallery and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Yet, what it lacks in size it makes up for in its treatment of American history with particular emphasis on the triumphs of African Americans.
The museum begins with the entrapment and transport of Africans to America. It begins just at the entrance at a small, hidden staircase where you are taken to one of the most poignant exhibits of all time depicting the “middle passage,” the middle part of a cargo ship’s journey between Europe, Africa, and the Americas where captured people were taken from Africa and shipped into lives of enslavement. Taking special care to read the historical notes accompanying each scene and recognizing the artistic depiction of the wax models’ expressions will enhance your experience. Back upstairs, there are other exhibits featuring historic events and tributes to historic figures leading up to the present. Depiction of the early days of American slavery continues in another part of the museum.
Throughout the Great Blacks in Wax, visitors are given reason to pause. Even contemporary history plays an important role in the museum. Accounts of both the dark but honest plague of substance abuse that riddles many of today’s communities and the landmark election of President Barack Obama sit only a small distance apart.
At first glance, the Great Blacks in Wax Museum serves its purpose as an institution for remembering and helping Americans never to forget the plight of African Americans in the United States. It honors a vast handful of the African Americans throughout history who have helped the United States become the beacon of freedom and opportunity that it is today, however arduous that endeavor was to begin (for the end is not here).
In addition to being a record of history, the Great Blacks in Wax Museum is also a starting place. Its exhibits spark curiosity among African Americans and non-African Americans alike. The museum is a safe and comfortable beginning to one of the hottest and most subversive topics in American conversation. It is said that race as Americans know it is a completely American phenomenon. When some foreign visitors come to United States, they are fascinated by this American obsession. Treating foreign guests to a trip to the Great Blacks in Museum is an excellent way to address their curiosity and remove the tension that often surrounds broaching the subject.
The Great Blacks in Wax Museum is appropriate fare for visiting any time of the year. It outlines not only African-American history, but also, most importantly, the history of the entire nation. It is one of the best, most carefully curated museums in Baltimore.