Tour of African American Historical Sites in Baltimore Maryland

This driving tour includes stops at a variety of black institutions such as churches and museums was well as historical markers, monuments, and sites that were central to the long civil rights movement in Baltimore. The tour also includes the former home of Thurgood Marshall, the Lilly Mae Jackson Home and Museum, the Black Soldier Statue, and the site of the 1968 riots.

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Thurgood Marshall House
On this site is the childhood home of Thurgood Marshall, one of the most important Civil Rights advocates and voices and the first African-American elevated to the Supreme Court. Born in 1908 in Baltimore, Thurgood Marshall was denied admission to Maryland Law School because of his race and went to Howard University in Washington DC instead. Following his graduation at Howard, Marshall returned to Baltimore to start a private practice and begin a 25-year affiliation with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Prior to his appointment to the US Court of Appeals in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer in the historical case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the case that the Supreme Court ruled that separate schools for black and white students was unconstitutional. From these humble beginnings at this site in Baltimore, Thurgood Marshall became one of the most fundamental people in the Civil Rights movement.
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Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum
This museum opened in 1978 and reopened in 2016 following a four-year restoration project that was made possible by Morgan State University, the institution that took ownership of the museum starting in 1996. The museum includes exhibits that share the history of the civil rights movement in Baltimore, and the life of Dr. Jackson, a civil rights leader who lived in the historic Baltimore row home. The museum also shares the story of Dr. Jackson, Margaret Thomas Carey, Clarence Maurice Mitchell Jr., and other Baltimore residents who led the fight for racial equality and civil rights in the state of Maryland. Jackson passed away in 1976 and in her will asked that the home become an educational museum that also served as a repository for historical artifacts. Among the permanent galleries are rooms dedicated to the history of the NAACP, youth activists, and leading individuals within Baltimore's long civil rights movement.
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Freedom House (1970-2015)
In 1970, this historic Baltimore rowhouse became known as "Freedom House" for its role in hosting civil rights meetings and organizations. In the previous two decades, this building was home to the local chapter of the NAACP and the place where national civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. visited while in the city. In an earlier period, the home was owned by Harry S. Cummings, Baltimore's first black city councilman. Cummings lived in the home from 1899 to 1911. Despite the efforts of local activists and advocated of historic preservation, Bethel AME church demolished the property in 2015. The property was donated to the church by civil rights activist Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson in 1977.
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Union Baptist Church (Baltimore, Maryland)
Union Baptist Church was established in 1905 and it is one of the very first places of worship for African-American Baptists in the city of Baltimore. The church has played a role in community service in the city and it also had a hand in the fight for equality and social justice as well. It’s contributions to civil rights can be traced back to one of its early ministers, Dr. Harvey Johnson, who was one of the founders of the Mutual United Brotherhood of Liberty. The Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty was a civil rights organization that fought against Jim Crow laws in the 1900. The organization used courts to pursue civil rights for African-Americans in Maryland. The legacy Dr. Johnson helped start can still be seen today as the church continues its social activism in neighborhoods throughout central Baltimore.
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Orchard Street United Methodist Church
The Orchard Street United Methodist Church was constructed in 1837 and is the oldest standing structure erected by African Americans in the city of Baltimore. The church was founded by Trueman Pratt, a free black man born into slavery in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Unearthed beneath the church is a mile-long narrow tunnel that many believe was used along the Underground Railroad. The church's congregants are believed to have played an important role in sheltering and assisting escaped slaves. The church is no longer an active place of worship; it instead stands as a museum of black history in the state of Maryland. It is also home to the Greater Baltimore chapter of the National Urban League, a civil rights organization that advocates against racial discrimination in the United States.
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Read’s Drug Store Sit-ins
The Read’s Drug Store sit-ins represent the first use of use of sustained direct action against segregation beyond the protests that occurred in places such as Wichita and a number of Northern college towns in the 1940s and early 1950s. Throughout 1955, protesters occupied members of the Read’s Drug Store chain throughout the city of Baltimore. The sit-ins were conducted by students of Morgan State College, along with members of the Baltimore chapter of the Committee of Racial Equality (CORE) who believed that by desegregating the drug store chain, they would be making a powerful statement about the dignity of people of color and the economic power of a united black community. The main sit-in occurred at Read’s flagship store on January 20, 1955. Protested also organized several other demonstrations, including those that occurred at other franchise locations. The wave of sit-in protests may have been short-lived, but historians have shown that they inspired future direct action protests in other "Border Cities" from Missouri to Kentucky. In 1960, a similar protest in North Carolina led to a wave of protests throughout the Border South that even spread into a number of communities in the Deep South.
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The Black Soldier Memorial Statue
The Black Soldier Memorial Statue, commissioned and dedicated by the City of Baltimore thanks to the financial support of an anonymous donor, was designed by sculptor James E. Lewis and unveiled on May 30th, 1972. The statue depicts a soldier holding a wreath and sash. Written on the sash is a chronology of the wars in which African American soldiers fought in the service of the United States. The statue was originally located on the north side of the Battle Monument Park, but has been a permanent fixture in War Memorial Plaza, in front of Baltimore City Hall, since 2007.
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Joe Gans and the Goldfield Hotel Historical Marker
In 1902, Baltimore native Joe Gans won his place in history as the first African American world boxing champion, but his most infamous fight was still four years away. In 1906, he boxed a grueling 42 rounds against Oscar Nelson in Goldfield, Nevada, before claiming victory. The impact of this win on Gans and his fans led the boxer to found the Goldfield Hotel in Baltimore, commemorating his hardest-fought win. The hotel's nightclub is also notable for being among the first integrated entertainment spaces. The hotel once stood on the corner of East Lexington and Colvin Streets. The hotel was later used as a grocery store before being demolished in the 1960s. The site of the hotel is now a post office complex.
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Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture
Established as the Maryland Museum of African American History and Culture in 1998, this museum is named in honor of Baltimore business leader Reginald F. Lewis, the first Africna American to build and lead a Wall Street law firm. Together with a five million dollar donation from Lewis, funds from the state of Maryland, and donations form indiviudals and organizations throughout, the museum opened its current facility in 2005. Highlights of the museum include three galleries that preserve and share the history and contributions of African Americans in Baltimore. The institution also operates a resource center and offers monthly programs that include lectures, musical performances, and educational events for all ages.
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Baltimore Slave Trade Historic Marker
The Baltimore Slave Trade Historic Marker, erected by the Maryland Historical Trust, is a reminder of the connection between the domestic slave market that proliferated primarily between Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Fell’s Point. Although the US banned the import of slaves in 1808, the domestic slave trade in Baltimore thrived, as well as in many other cities at the time. Furthermore, due to innovations such as the cotton gin and the growing desire for more slaves in the Deep South, it is estimated that before 1859, over one million slaves were sold south from Maryland and Virginia. One Baltimore institution that exemplified this trade was the “slave pens,” most of which were located in Inner Harbor and Fell’s Point, including some that were located near this marker. Compounding the slave pens were frequent advertisements in the Baltimore Sun and other papers, declaring "5,000 Negroes Wanted" or "Negroes! Negroes! Negroes!" In an 1845 city directory, "Slave Dealers" were listed between "Silversmiths" and "Soap." More than a dozen slave traders operated in Baltimore along Pratt and adjacent streets. The stories regarding Baltimore’s past is still controversial for African Americans and whites, and this historic marker ensures that these stories aren’t unforgotten.
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Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park
The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum is located on the Baltimore Inner Harbor. It is a culturally significant site housed in the oldest standing industrial building on the Inner Harbor. The Park and Museum are part of the Living Classroom Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aims to strengthen communities, inspire young people to reach their potential and promote cultural preservation. The Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum highlights the lives of Frederick Douglass who grew up in Baltimore and lived in Fell’s Point; Isaac Myers who founded the first African-American owned and operated shipyard in the United States.
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Baltimore Riots of 1968
The Baltimore Riots of 1968 marked a violent climax of Baltimore’s racial and economic tensions, and it was the result of numerous social factors of the time. These social factors included declining manufacturing and industry sectors, increasing economic distress and poverty among the city’s growing African American community, and, perhaps most infamously, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Like in nearly every major city in the U.S., King’s assassination was the spark that ignited this riot, which between April 6th and April 14th, resulted in six deaths, 700 injuries, and $8-10 million in property damage around the city.
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Former Site of Novak's Food Market - A Landmark of Black Television and History in Baltimore
Situated in an East Baltimore intersection, the plot (now also a construction site) that once held Novak's Food Market, also known as Novak's Grocery, had been a location of unfortunate violence in both film and reality. Prior to 2015, the Baltimore market was probably best known as a film location for the critically-acclaimed HBO drama The Wire- specifically the death scene of one of it's most infamous characters. In real life, Novak's Food Market was set ablaze during riots that overtook the city of Baltimore between April 28th and 29th in 2015. The riots began after the death of a young black man- Freddie Gray, sparked protests against police brutality. While the protestors themselves remained peaceful, rioters took to the streets causing mayhem and setting over fifteen East Baltimore buildings on fire, including Novak's Food Market.
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The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum
The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is a ride through African- American history that uniqueness is truly unrivaled. The museum is comprised of life-sized wax figures that are not only life-like, but also truly invigorating. This museum is unlike anything that you have ever experienced. From the beginning of the tour you are immersed with a truly authentic depiction of African- American history. The tour is vivid and unrelenting in that they show the true malicious beginnings of African-American slaves. The museum illustrates over 400 years of African-American history, however it begins with the Atlantic Slave Trade. With a full model slave ship exhibit, one cannot help but feel enamored by the life-like demeanor of the wax like figurines. Visitors will be astounded by the authentic visual of the museum, and will be left overwhelmed and reeducated. The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is the first wax museum to showcase African-American history in the nation. The museum located in Baltimore is truly an inspiring demonstration of African-American history. The museum truly has a life of its own. When you open the doors to the museum, you feel that you are a part of history. Visitors are bombarded with the wax figures of the likes of Hannibal, Askia the Great, Benjamin Banneker, Harriet Tubman, Emmet Till, and over a 100 others. This museum is unrivaled as it truly immerses visitors from start to finish. There is a story at every turn. Every wax figure is important because it has a story behind it. Nothing in the museum is unsubstantial. While you may know the many exploits of Rosa Parks, the museum encourages you to expand your education by setting alongside prominent blacks like Rosa Parks, with the likes of Henry “Box” Brown, Prince Hall, Makeda, Queen of Sheba, and Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman. The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is truly a fascinating place. Besides the remarkable uniqueness of the museum, it serves as an educational experience. The museum supplies the visitor with well-known African-Americans, but it also forces you to experience people you have never heard of. It is truly fascinating when you walk into the museum and you see a statue of Rosa Parks, and suddenly you turn the corner and see Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. You are suddenly curious, and want to find out more about the wax figure you see in front of you. Who was Prince Hall, Mother Elizabeth Lange, of Robert Samuel? These are the questions you began to ask yourself. Even the greatest and most knowledgeable historian will appreciate this exhibit because it is not only captivating, but extremely thorough. If you want a truly unique experience of Black History, come and experience Black History in the form of wax.
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The Baltimore Afro-American
The Afro, as it is commonly known, is a weekly newspaper in Baltimore, MD. The newspaper has been in circulation since 1892 and is the oldest black family-owned newspaper in the United States. This black owned and operated newspaper has crusaded for racial equality and the socioeconomic advancement of African Americans throughout its existence. For over a half a century, The Afro was the most widely circulated black newspaper on the Atlantic coast and today, with offices in Baltimore and DC, the newspaper has both a print and an online presence. It publishes two weekly editions and on the online front, The Afro gives users access to The Afro Archives - a vault that features various editions from the last 100 years that cover an impressive span of change, division and progress in African American History.
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Druid Hill Tennis Protest
The 1940’s was a period that represented the hard work by activists who stood up for their civil rights, equality, and desegregation. It was a time that foreshadowed the Civil Rights Movement and the essential plan of action for advocates to demonstrate equality and justice among all Americans. July 11, 1948 was just that; it was a moment that demanded attention to the continual mistreatment and injustice of African Americans. This date marks the interracial protests and arrests of white and black activists at Druid Hill Park. A group named the Young Progressives of Maryland planned to manifest an interracial tennis match that would represent the unfair domination that segregation played in their lives.
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James Weldon Johnson Auditorium, Coppin State University
Constructed in 1972, this auditorium is named in honor of author, poet, and early civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson. Johnson became the first African American to lead the NAACP. The building is one of the oldest on the uniquely modern campus of Coppin State University, an institution of learning that was founded as a high school for African Americans in 1900 and named in honor of former slave and pioneering educator Fanny Jackson Coppin. Like many other campus buildings, this structure was completed in the 1970s and was part of the expansion of the college that led to university status in 2004. The auditorium holds 975 and is the only large assembly space on campus other than the college's intercollegiate athletic facilities.

This tour was created by Mitch Roberts on 03/25/18 .

This tour has been taken 200 times within the past year.

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