Visit Baltimore Official Guide Fall/Winter 2019 VisitBaltimore_FallWinter_2019_Final_Digital - Page 35

Pioneering Woman: DR. JOANNE MARTIN A s one half of the couple that founded the National Great Blacks In Wax Museum, Dr. Joanne Martin is practically a Baltimore institution in her own right. Alongside her late husband, Elmer, Dr. Martin took a dream of celebrating African American history, supporting the community and improving race relations and turned it into a landmark attraction that’s been in business for nearly four decades. It was the first wax museum of African American history in the country. Dr. Joanne Martin In the early 1980s, the Martins took the money they had saved for a down payment on a home and, instead, invested in four wax figures. After a few years of displaying their figures at schools, churches and malls, they opened a small storefront downtown with 21 figures in 1983. By the end of the decade, they had moved into a 15,000-square-foot abandoned firehouse on North Avenue after receiving more than $300,000 in grants and loans. These days, the museum brings in nearly 300,000 visitors yearly to see its unflinching depictions of African American history told through more than 100 wax figures. A planned expansion will encompass the entire block to comprise more than 120,000 square feet of interactive exhibits. The expansion will also redevelop adjacent dilapidated properties into a memorial garden. For Martin, expanding the museum and revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood is essential to the original mission. 3) MARY YOUNG PICKERSGILL Though Francis Scott Key gets much of the credit for the moment that sparked the writing of the National Anthem during the War of 1812, Baltimore native Mary Young Pickersgill was the woman behind the inspiring grand flag. The daughter of an accomplished flag maker, Pickersgill was commissioned by Major Armistead to make a flag for Fort McHenry, with instructions to make it so large that the British would have no trouble seeing it from afar. She made the flag with the help of her mother, two nieces, an apprentice and other women in her Jonestown neighborhood, and she earned a little more than $400 for the work. Her flag now resides at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in Washington, but a replica is flown over Fort McHenry each day. WHERE TO CELEBRATE HER: The late-1700s home where Pickersgill lived and sewed the flag still stands in the Jonestown neighborhood of Baltimore, east of downtown, where it is now a historic landmark known as the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House. The home contains antiques of the era and items from the family, and a newer museum next door features exhibits on the War of 1812 and the Battle of Baltimore. “A primary motivation for establishing the museum was to use education, history and example to help mainly culturally disadvantaged youth overcome feelings of alienation, defeatism and despair,” writes Martin in a message on the museum’s website. “Of the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the museum each year, many are African American children. As a result of their exposure to the museum and its programs, these young people know more about their heritage and have a greater understanding of significant contributions to civilization by people of African descent. Ultimately, they are better prepared to challenge those who would tell them they have no history worth remembering.” Q National Great Blacks In Wax Museum B A LT I M O R E . O R G 33