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

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israeli
X
Carolyn Presutti
July 23, 2014 1:21 AM
The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video US Carriers Suspend Travel to Israel

The United States is prohibiting American carriers from flying to Israel's airport in Tel Aviv for 24 hours, because of rising violence between Israel and Hamas militants. The action was announced on Tuesday, after a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip landed near the airport. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us, international officials soon may have to determine which combat zones are too dangerous for commercial flights.
Video

Video NASA Focuses on Earth-Like Planets

For decades, looking for life elsewhere in the universe meant listening for signals that could be from distant civilizations. But recent breakthroughs in space technology refocused some of that effort toward finding planets that may harbor life, even in its primitive form. VOA’s George Putic reports on a recent panel discussion at NASA’s headquarters, in Washington.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.

AppleAndroid