Banneker-Douglass Museum

History Museum
Banneker-Douglass Museum photo
Craig Herndon for The Washington Post

Editorial Review

The former Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1874-75 by a congregation of free African Americans. It now houses the Banneker-Douglass Museum, Maryland's official repository of African American heritage. The museum also opens its doors for a variety of community events, including poetry readings, jazz concerts and book signings.

The museum is named after two of the state's most notable sons: abolitionist Frederick Douglass and mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker. Exhibitions, which generally run between six to eight months, may be historic, art-centered or both.

All exhibits highlight the contributions made by African Americans in Maryland. The state's black heritage is particularly rich: During the Civil War, one-fifth of all blacks and the largest concentration of free blacks in the United States lived there.

The Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture saved the brick Victorian-Gothic church building from demolition, threatened by county officials in 1972. (It was first threatened by Mother Nature, when, in 1896, it was seriously damaged in a storm.)

The building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973, the year the congregation moved to a new facility. Only one of the original 21 stained-glass windows survived looting and vandalism after the building's abandonment. The 20 broken windows have been replaced with historic replicas.

-- Lori Robinson

For Kids:

Maryland has had a strange history with its black citizens. Called the "free state" it nevertheless was home to many Southern sympathizers during the Civil War. This Annapolis museum, housed in a former African Methodist Episcopal church, explores the lives and contributions of the state's African Americans from slavery to more modern times. Frederick Douglass, of course, was the Maryland-born former slave who settled in Washington. Benjamin Banneker was a Colonial-era engineer and surveyor (he helped Pierre L'Enfant in the design of Washington).

-- by John Kelly and Craig Stoltz