Melissa Goldman

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A black history travel guide for Baltimore.

An African American Heritage Tour of Baltimore

From Frederick Douglass to Eubie Blake, African Americans have blazed a distinguished trail through Baltimore. In just a few days, visitors to this charming East Coast port city can explore a history of unparalleled achievement and inspiration on a remarkable journey through its many African American treasures.

One great place to begin a visit is the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum, housing more than 100 life-size wax figures--including Frederick Douglass, Harriett Tubman and Benjamin Banneker--presented in dramatic and historical scenes. A most compelling highlight is the dramatic walk through the museum's replica slave ship, complete with Middle Passage history. Then journey through 400 years of African American history at the new Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History & Culture, the largest of its kind on the East Coast. With interactive permanent exhibitions, exciting changing exhibitions and engaging programs, the museum is fast becoming a major regional attraction.

At the Eubie Blake National Jazz Museum and Cultural Center, check out the assortment of memorabilia and artifacts honoring the Baltimore-born composer and pianist, as well as highlights of other Baltimore jazz greats like Cab Calloway and Chick Webb. Then uncover keys to Baltimore's past and future at the Orchard Street Church. Founded in 1825, legend has it the church was a stop on the Underground Railroad--it still has an escape tunnel! Along with the church, the building today is also home to the Baltimore Urban League, an organization committed to enhancing the social and economic conditions of African Americans in Baltimore.

Also a stop on the Underground Railroad, the Baltimore Civil War Museum is housed in the President Street railroad station, which was built in 1851. The site also played a pivotal role in the Pratt Street Riot, the first incident of bloodshed in the Civil War, and features exhibits on Baltimore's colored troops.

Other highlights include the Frederick Douglass Marker in Fell's Point, celebrating the life of the great abolitionist, publisher and orator. Other neighborhood sites showcase where Douglass lived, worked, worshipped and learned to read. Don't miss the five historic townhouses he built that still stand today.

And if you have time for a show while you're in town, don't miss the nation's oldest continuously operating African American community theater, the Arena Players, offering productions of both classic works and contemporary plays by African American writers.

Finally, consider a stop at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the oldest, largest and strongest civil rights organization in the United States, which moved its headquarters to Baltimore in 1986. Peruse the national civil rights archives at the library, and stroll through a memorial garden to writer Dorothy Parker.

Melissa Goldman works for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. Visit In Celebration of Women to view her blog, biographies of Baltimore women, and more.

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