By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,

The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum received a $2 million federal investment, which was presented by U.S. lawmakers Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D-Md.), Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to museum co-founder and President Joanne Martin on March 31.

“These funds represent the ability to sustain a cultural identity,” said Mfume. “At the end of the day, [the museum] will provide education for young people over and over again. Busloads of students come here every summer to understand this whole notion of history.”

The museum’s funds were derived from Congress’ $1.7 trillion 2023 omnibus appropriations bill. Over $80 million has been secured for Baltimore projects—several designated for infrastructure in Black communities.

Funded projects include $1.75 million to restore The Juanita Jackson Mitchell Legal Center, a law office formerly owned by the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and practice law in Maryland.

Congressional leaders recently publicly announced competitive funds allocated to B-360 for the nation’s first dirt bike campus and to the AFRO for restoring the historic Upton Mansion to provide a home for the Black newspaper.

“This is not the only event that we did for preserving Black history to be able to tell the story of the Black communities,” said Cardin at the Black museum event. “Earlier this year, we were with the AFRO to preserve the Upton Mansion for the AFRO archives here in Baltimore.”

State Sen. Cory V. McCray (D-45) also attended the event and talked about the impact of the museum and its founders.

 “I think about this being in the heart of East Baltimore, being at the heart of this North Avenue corridor and how important it is,” said McCray. “I think about how Dr. Martin and her husband, Elmer Martin were so intentional about making sure that we lift all [Baltimore] communities.”

Elmer Martin died in 2001 and was a driving force for the wax museum.

“I promised [Elmer] that I would keep his memory alive by keeping this museum alive,” said Joanne Martin. “I also promised him that everything he represents would be manifested in our museum.

His kindness, talent, genius, brilliance, creativity, vision, spirit, and belief in preserving the history of people of African descent.”

According to its website, the wax museum features about 150 figures of Black historical icons, including Rosa Parks and former president Barack Obama.

“We have an endeavor to build 25,000 additional square feet and to add to the 5,000 years of history that we tell right now,” said Martin. “More than anything else, to continue to educate our children that they may know that they matter because they’re in a community that they don’t have to leave to find something worthwhile.”


Tashi McQueen is a Report For America Corps Member.

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