BHM: Celebrating Baltimore’s National Great Blacks in Wax Museum

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by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Most museums with a national profile are created and built by cities, states or institutions that work with curators and major funding.

There are also, however, a select few museums of renown that are built up from a grassroots level by community members determined to inform and educate future generations about history and culture from an authentic and engaging perspective.

Sociologist Dr. Elmer Martin and his wife, Dr. Joanna Martin, were most definitely among those select few.

Drs. Joanna and Elmer Martin, co-founders of The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum (photo:

The Martins wanted to teach Black history in a way that would grab the attention of school children —so they did it with wax.

The Martins had wax heads made in the likenesses of Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Mary McLeod Bethune and Nat Turner, then used department store mannequins for the bodies.

They originally presented the figures at schools and community centers in Baltimore, Maryland, but after garnering donations and grants, the figures were permanently installed at the Great Blacks in Wax Museum in 1983.

Just over a decade later, in…


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