Eas­ier ac­cess to African-Amer­i­can his­tory

Mary­land’s mu­se­ums nearer, dearer al­ter­na­tive to crowded Smith­so­nian

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY RACHEL MCNAIR

A large spot­light has been shin­ing on the Smith­so­nian’s new, crowded and com­pelling Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture in the District, but that doesn’t dim Mary­land’s own repos­i­to­ries for black his­tory.

Mary­land has more than a dozen AfricanAmer­i­can mu­se­ums of its own, from the Na­tional Great Blacks in Wax mu­seum in Bal­ti­more to the Har­riet Tub­man mu­seum in Cam­bridge to the Dole­man Black Her­itage mu­seum in Hager­stown.

Although the smaller mu­se­ums can be over­shad­owed by the new gi­ant in the District, their lo­cal sig­nif­i­cance is an im­por­tant com­ple­ment to the na­tional story — but with much eas­ier ac­cess.

At the Mary­land mu­se­ums, there are no lines and you don’t have to wait months to get in the doors.

The 2013 An­nual Re­port from the Mary­land Com­mis­sion on African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture says Mary­land mu­seum at­ten­dance was more than 7,000 vis­i­tors. On the other hand, the Smith­so­nian’s Na­tional Mu­seum of African Amer­i­can His­tory and Cul­ture had 305,000 vis­i­tors for 2016 from open­ing day on Sept. 24 through the end of Oc­to­ber.

To know the full story of the African-Amer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence, both a lo­cal and a na­tional point of view are nec­es­sary, said Gwen­dolyn Bri­ley-Strand, a Mary­land ac­tor who per­forms as Tub­man.

“You don’t just read one book on a sub­ject, you read many so you can’t just go to the Na­tional mu­seum and ex­pect to know the whole story. You have to go to the smaller Mary­land mu­se­ums as well,” Ms. Bri­ley-Strand said.

The Regi­nald F. Lewis Mu­seum in Bal­ti­more tells sto­ries of cel­e­bra­tion, tri­umph, and per­se­ver­ance through art. Through the end of next year, it fea­tures an ex­hibit called “Sons: See­ing the Mod­ern African Amer­i­can Male” that dis­plays hun­dreds of photos of fa­thers and sons.

“This is a very proud mo­ment. My son is 14 years old and he’s an eighth-grader, so he’s com­ing up through those for­ma­tive years try­ing to learn about who he is,” Keif­fer Mitchell Jr., a for­mer Mary­land state del­e­gate and a cur­rent mem­ber of Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s Cabi­net, said as he smiled at a pic­ture of him­self and his son.

The Na­tional Great Blacks in Wax Mu­seum gives a glimpse of ev­ery era dur­ing the AfricanAmer­i­can ex­pe­ri­ence dat­ing back to Africa. The mu­seum fea­tures wax fig­ures of many in­di­vid­u­als such as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Tub­man and Fred­er­ick Dou­glass.

One ex­hibit from the out­side looks like a ship, and when you walk down­stairs you see how slaves looked, chained, on the ves­sel on their way to Amer­ica.

The Prince Ge­orge’s African Amer­i­can Mu­seum and Cul­tural Cen­ter takes you on a walk through the his­tory of the county, from a World War II mil­i­tary jacket and hat to Arthur Ashe’s ten­nis racket.

Each Mary­land mu­seum has its own spe­cialty and pur­pose.

“Mu­se­ums are about the truth, that’s what we need,” said Ms. Bri­ley-Strand.

Mary­land has a rich African-Amer­i­can his­tory, be­ing the home to prom­i­nent fig­ures such as Tub­man, Dou­glass, Thur­good Mar­shall and many more. The state was home to the Un­der­ground Rail­road that helped hun­dreds of slaves es­cape to free­dom.

Mary­land’s African-Amer­i­can mu­se­ums pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to share the his­tory the state holds in the na­tional story.

“For once, just feel what we feel, see what we see, and try to un­der­stand,” said Ms. Bri­ley-Strand.


Fa­mous black ed­u­ca­tors Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Carver (left) Booker T. Wash­ing­ton and Mary McLeod Bethune are part of a look at eras in black his­tory at the Na­tional Great Blacks In Wax Mu­seum in Bal­ti­more.

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