The Carthaginian General Hannibal sits atop an elephant and American pilot Bessie Coleman hangs from the ceiling in an airplane at the entrance to the country's first black history wax museum. Great Blacks in Wax gives a comprehensive overview of African and African American history through more than 100 life-size figures, accentuated by sound effects, lighting and animation.
The most impressive display is a re-created slave ship showing the horrors of the Middle Passage -- the imprisoned transport of Africans to be sold as slaves in America and the Carribbean -- from branding to forced feeding. Haunting voices urge visitors to "remember" the massive tragedy.
Imhotep, the Egyptian father of medicine, and Queen Nzingha, the Angolan ruler who kept Portuguese slave traders at bay for 40 years, are among the ancient African figures reminding guests that black history began centuries before slavery.
Other scenes show Reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement and space flight. The museum, in a renovated fire station in northeast Baltimore, receives visitors from around the world. A recently naturalized group of Russian senior citizens were excited to see the black Russian poet, Pushkin.
The museum doubles as a community center where neighborhood students work and study, and monthly poetry readings are held. With advance reservation, guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more.
-- Lori Robinson
Admission is $9 for groups of 10 or more with reservations.