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Great Blacks in Wax Exhibit

Dr.Joanne Martin will speak at the opening the this exhibit. She is founder of this museum in Baltimore with her husband Dr; Elmer Martin.

The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum is among the nations most dynamic cultural and educational institutions. Because it is a wax museum committed solely to the study and preservation of African American history, it is also among the most unique. Primarily, the presentation of life-size, life-like wax figures highlighting historical and contemporary personalities of African ancestry defines its uniqueness. This unique museum, the first one of wax in Baltimore, Maryland and the first wax museum of African American history in the nation, is the brainchild of Drs. Elmer and Joanne Martin. They established the museum in 1983 with several objectives in mind:

  1. To stimulate an interest in African American history by revealing the little-known, often-neglected facts of history
  2. To use great leaders as role models to motivate youth to achieve
  3. To improve race relations by dispelling myths of racial inferiority and superiority
  4. To support and work in conjunction with other nonprofit, charitable organizations seeking to improve the social and economic status of African Americans

The museum had begun to carry out these objectives during its two years on Saratoga Street where it received nearly 2,000 students from city and county schools during African American history month of 1984 and about 2,500 during that period in 1985. The Martins soon realized that The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum was finding it difficult to accommodate large groups and had begun to outgrow the 1,200 square foot facility. Therefore, they initiated a search for a larger building and for funds to develop a new museum. In 1985, State Senator Clarence Blount sponsored a bill awarding the museum a $100,000 matching grant. The same year the Martins closed the Saratoga Street facility and, with the help of their newly formed Board of Trustees, launched a fund-raising campaign to match the grant. The museum has shown that tourism can thrive in a nontraditional setting. Its patronage more than quadrupled since the move ten years ago to this community on Baltimore's eastside ranging from 43,000 in 1989 to nearly 300,000 annual visitors today.

As the founders of The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum, Inc., Dr. Elmer and Joanne Martin knew the importance of having a dream and the gratification of having one's dream fulfilled. Their dream took form in 1980 when they, with money they had saved to make a down payment on a house, purchased four wax figures. They carried the figures around to schools, churches, shopping malls, and almost anywhere that people would allow them to set up an exhibit. Little did they know that by 1983 they would have a small storefront museum in downtown Baltimore, 21 wax figures, and the good wishes and support of many loyal friends.

The possibility that in 1988 they would be celebrating the grand opening of a 10,000 square foot facility on North Avenue seemed almost unimaginable. But they always knew that a higher power than the two of them was guiding this effort. So they have always dared to dream, to believe that if they just "kept the faith," things would work out.  The five figures that are visiting Handley Library are just a small representation of this special museum. They are Mary Elizabeth Bowser, Chappie James, Frederick Douglass, Lewis Latimer and Carter G. Woodson. 

Monday, September 17, 2018
6:30pm - 8:00pm
Handley Robinson Auditorium, Handley Benham Gallery
Handley Library
Programs for Grown-Ups  

Event Organizer

Profile photo of Barbara Dickinson
Barbara Dickinson

Executive Director, Friends of HRL

Phone 540/662-9041 Ext 31

Email friends@handleyregional.org