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Black History is American History

Let’s take a journey to the past to discover a few interesting facts of Black History.

Black, yellow, green, and red graphic that says, "Black History Month."

Maryland has a long history – during slavery to the civil rights movement and beyond. Sometimes you can live in a place and not know the history. Let’s take a journey to the past and you may discover a few facts you did not know.

Revolutionary author and abolitionist Frederick Douglass was born a slave in Maryland and sent to Baltimore as a young boy. While in Baltimore he learned how to read. He even worked at the Fell Point Shipyard. While working there, Douglass met his future wife Anna Murray, who helped him escape to the north. Douglass would meet with Abraham Lincoln and advocate for the end of slavery. Another Marylander was leading enslaved individuals to freedom via the Underground Railroad and providing valuable intelligence to the Union Army. Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in Dorchester County, Maryland in 1820. She landed in Baltimore in 1850 after helping her sister and children escape to freedom. The first of thirteen forays into Maryland Tubman facilitated the escape of countless enslaved individuals.

Pianist and composer Eubie Blake contributed greatly to the development of East Coast ragtime. He was born in Baltimore in 1887. Billie Holiday, a jazz performer, and cultural icon spent her early years in Baltimore. A bronze statue complete with her signature gardenia, stands more than eight feet tall on Pennsylvania Ave in West Baltimore. My mom helped install it there. 

Baltimore played a pivotal role in advancing civil rights and justice for African Americans. In 1931, sisters Juanita and Virginia Jackson organized the city-wide Young People’s Forum. Their mother, Lillie May Carroll Jackson was also a civil rights activist who grew the Baltimore branch of the NAACP. Thurgood Marshall, a Baltimore-born civil rights attorney, became the first African American Supreme Court Justice. He won the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court. Baltimore was the first southern city to integrate its schools.

Inventions that changed the world

  • The potato chip was invented in 1853 by George Crum
  • Garrett Morgan, Sr. invented the traffic light and protective smoke hood
  • Alica Parker received a patent for a furnace which is the basis for the modern heating system in use today
  • Lewis Howard Latimer manufactured carbon filaments for light bulbs and improved toilet systems for railroad cars
  • Frederick Mckinley Jones invented mobile refrigeration

To learn more about some of the national treasures in our backyard. Here is a list of museums.

  1. Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum
  2. B and O Railroad Museum
  3. Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum
  4. James E. Lewis Museum of Art
  5. Maryland Center of History and Culture
  6. National Great Blacks in Wax Museum
  7. Reginald Lewis Museum of African American
  8. Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center

It enlightens us all to know where we came from. If we do not learn about our history, we are destined to repeat the mistakes of the past.

I will leave you with one of my favorite quotes by Harriet Tubman, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the starts to change the world.”