News / USA

Wax Museum Focuses on African-Americans

Wax Museum Focuses on African-Americansi
X
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

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid