News / USA

Wax Museum Focuses on African-Americans

Wax Museum Focuses on African-Americansi
February 22, 2013 2:30 AM
A small museum in (the eastern U.S. city of) Baltimore, Maryland is telling the story of African-Americans through wax figures. The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is the first of its kind to focus on that history. As VOA’s Deborah Block reports, the museum looks at the suffering African-Americans endured, as well as their accomplishments.
Wax Museum Focuses on African-Americans
Deborah Block
A small museum in the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore, Maryland is telling the story of African-Americans through wax figures. The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum is the first of its kind to focus on that history. The museum looks at the suffering African-Americans endured, as well as their accomplishments.

The 150 wax figures in the museum include educator and author Booker T. Washington, jazz legend Eubie Blake, and the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. There’s also Harriett Tubman, who before the Civil War, helped fugitive slaves escape along the Underground Railroad -- a network of secret safe houses. And renowned civil rights leader, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Junior.
The privately-owned museum was founded 30 years ago by Elmer and Joanne Martin, both educators, who wanted to counter the flawed portrayals of black Americans they often found in history books.

Deborah Pierce Fakunle is on the museum’s board of directors.

“The concept of the museum was to put a face on our history.  It was done using wax figures because wax figures can make the history life-like,” Fakunle said.

That historical journey begins in Africa and culminates with America's first black president, Barack Obama.  

Ushango Owens was surprised at how real some of the wax figures appear. “I was coming through one corridor and I turned around and I thought it was a person and it jolted me a little bit,” Owens said.

As he leads visitors around, tour guide Tom Saunders points to fascinating stories, including the tale of Henry Brown, a slave who escaped by hiding in a box and shipping himself to a city where he was freed.  And Queen Ann Nzingha, who ruled Angola for 50 years.

“Any slave trader who came into her territory, she killed them.  No slave came from Angola until the death of Queen Ann Nzingha in 1663,” Saunders said.

A replica of a 19th century slave ship shows the misery on board -- Africans crammed into tiny spaces. The exhibit had an impact on Waymon Lefall, who says many African-Americans don’t realize how horrible the conditions were.

“More people should know about it, because if you don’t know your past, it’s kind of hard to know where you’re going in the future,” Lefall said.

Saunders says visitors learn how overseers controlled slaves on U.S. plantations, including restraining them with an iron mask.

“Once this was placed over your head you could neither eat nor drink.  And the mask is mounted to the wall so he’s suspended by his head," Saunders said.

The exhibits also presents important but less well-known African-Americans, such as medical researcher Charles Drew, whose work led to the development of blood banks, and Guy Bluford, the first African-American in space.

Shirron Rice was amazed at what she learned.  “A lot about my African heritage, a lot of people that I’d never even heard of or knew existed.  I’m now aware of a lot of different things,” she said.

The small museum has big plans - to expand in two years to showcase more about African-Americans' struggles, progress and hopes for the future.

You May Like

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Fake, Substandard Medicines Pose Global Challenge

So-called 'fake drugs' include expired medicines, those with manufacturing defects, and bogus tablets More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs