Celebrate Black History in Maryland
From the founding of the colony through today, Maryland has been shaped by African Americans. The story of their experience is one of perseverance, courage and triumph from the horrors of enslavement to the heroism of the Underground Railroad, the Jazz Age and today’s inspiring contributions to the sciences, arts and culture.
Journey through Maryland and honor the lives of American heroes like Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and Josiah Henson. Celebrate their legacies during special Black History Month events in February and throughout the rest of the year.
Celebrate the life and accomplishments of Frederick Douglass on a driving tour that starts on the Eastern Shore and takes you through Annapolis and Baltimore. See the parts of Maryland that helped shape the character of the Father of Civil Rights.
Maryland honors the legacy of one of America’s greatest heroes, Harriet Tubman, with The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center. There you will experience a glimpse into the life of a woman who risked all in the name of freedom. Explore the new park and travel the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. This February, the Visitor Center offers family friendly events often on the weekends. Check the website for updates.
As Maryland’s official museum of African-American heritage, the Banneker-Douglass Museum documents, interprets and promotes African-American history and culture. A permanent exhibit, “Deep Roots, Rising Waters: A Celebration of African Americans in Maryland,” provides an overview of African-American history from 1633 through today. Explore stories of Mathias De Sousa, Maryland’s first African-American settler, Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court judge and Benjamin Banneker, who used his almanac as an anti-slavery protest in correspondence with Thomas Jefferson.
Visit Oakley Cabin and follow its trails to the mill at Brookeville Road and Georgia Avenue. This 2-acre tract served as the center of an African-American roadside community from 1880 to 1920. Today, the cabin, inhabited until 1976, serves as a living history museum with furnishings depicting various stages of its history. Artifacts that were excavated onsite are also on display. The grounds feature a trail, partially laid inside the old millrace, leading from the cabin to the mill. Call ahead to ask when the cabin is open for tours.
America's first and only wax museum celebrating African-American history and culture houses more than 100 life-size and lifelike wax figures presented in dramatic and historical scenes. Displays at The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum take you through the pages of time with special lighting, sound effects and animation to chronicle the history of notable figures from around the world. They include Harriet Tubman, Benjamin Banneker, Billie Holiday, President Barack Obama, Thurgood Marshall and many others. The experience is highlighted by a dramatic walk through a replica of a slave ship complete with Middle Passage history.
The USS Constellation is distinguished for her three years of service in the African Squadron from 1859 to 1861, when as the squadron's flagship she led the United States' fight against the transatlantic trafficking of enslaved people. With the outbreak of the Civil War, armed combat against slavery soon moved beyond the bounds of the sea. The war marks a well-known era in American history, and today the USS Constellation is open for tours, serving as an important reminder of the pre-war struggles of people, both enslaved and free, and the conditions that made the war and shaped the nation.
The Benjamin Banneker Historical Park & Museum features programs highlighting the accomplishments of African American scientists and notables. Banneker is often considered the first African-American man of science. Museum exhibits chronicle his contributions as a largely self-taught mathematician, astronomer, almanac writer, surveyor, abolition advocate and naturalist during the late 1700s. It was here that Banneker crafted one of the first American-made wooden clocks and wrote his almanacs and famous correspondence with Thomas Jefferson.
The B&O Railroad Museum celebrates and honors the contributions of African Americans to the railroad industry. Learn about the men and women who filled vital jobs along the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's line and understand how significant social issues, such as segregation, affected railroading.
Visitors can explore more than 400 years of Maryland’s African-American heritage at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. Special Black History Month events in February and year-round exhibits, performances and programs are offered in the 82,000-square-foot Smithsonian affiliate.
See Annapolis with a period-dressed guide on this award-winning walking tour that explores African-American heritage. Key stops include the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial and the Thurgood Marshall Memorial. African Americans have, for more than 300 years, comprised a significant portion of the population in Maryland, Anne Arundel County and Annapolis. In the 19th century, Maryland was home to more free African Americans than any other state.
This waterfront museum in Baltimore’s Fells Point showcases the lives of Maryland natives Frederick Douglass and Isaac Myers, who were important contributors in African-American maritime history. Through a self-guided tour, learn about Douglass’s time working on the docks as an enslaved youth before escaping to freedom in New York. Myers, a free-born African American labor leader, rose to become one of the founders of the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company.
The 19th-century Emmanuel Episcopal Church, believed to be a hub for the Underground Railroad, features unique architecture and Tiffany stained glass windows. The church was built atop several well-preserved tunnels at the site of Fort Cumberland. The tunnels were dug in the 1750s by George Washington and other soldiers during the French and Indian War and used as an escape route from the battlefield. Almost 100 years later, local tradition recounts the tunnels being a stop for enslaved people traveling to freedom on the Underground Railroad. Call ahead to schedule a free tour.
Join a guided tour of the grounds and buildings at Woodlawn Manor Cultural Park and discover the role of enslaved labor on this 19th-century farm. Explore the on-site museum and manor house, and walk on the Underground Railroad Experience Trail that freedom seekers followed.