1969-1979: Black Power to Black History
The 1970s marked the end of the Civil Rights Movement, the beginning of feminist movements, and the Black Museum Movement was gaining traction. Many African Americans viewed the “Negro Canon”, which valued art, history, and culture fueled by scholarship and activism, as a catalyst to create organizations to uplift Black History.
The Maryland Commission on Negro History and Culture (later the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture) was established in 1969 to research the ways the State of Maryland could create a better understanding of Negro history and culture within the state.
(Image [left]: A 1969 brochure outlining the role and activities of the new Maryland Commission on Negro History and Culture)
Education, advocacy and promotion, and preservation became the pillars on which the Commission stood from its first preservation effort, saving Mt. Moriah AME Church from demolition to educating the public in its Afro-American Study Center in Baltimore, Maryland. The Commission began advocating for and promoting the legacies of historic Marylanders like Benjamin Banneker and collecting artifacts for its forthcoming museum.
(Image [background]: A poster used in protest of the demolition of Mt. Moriah Church which reads "BLACK PEOPLE HAVE HISTORY TOO! SAVE MT. MORIAH", 1973)
1979-1989: Museum on a Mission
The Black Museum Movement entered full swing as the 1980s began. In 1984, the Commission dedicated the Banneker-Douglass Museum on Afro-American Life and Culture (later the Banneker-Douglass Museum) in the newly preserved Mt. Moriah Church. The museum was one of over 200 African American history museums in operation during this time.
(Image [right]: The cover of the Spring 1982 edition of "The Pendulum")
With plenty of news to share, the Commission started publishing a quarterly newsletter called The Pendulum which detailed Commission events and contemporary scholarship on African American history to educate the public. Markers, celebrations, and recognition awards like those dedicated to Joshua Johnson and given to Rosa Parks and Alex Haley promoted the work of historic and contemporary African Americans.
Additions to the Banneker-Douglass Museum’s (BDM) collections like Nathaniel K. Gibbs’ portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a collection of volumes on Black women authors preserved African American Marylander’s artistry, legacy, and scholarship. Annual celebrations of Kwanzaa and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday began during this decade.
In its second decade, MCAAHC expanded to include BDM and joined other museums across the country in the preservation, promotion, and education of Black history.
(Image [background]: "The Ghandi Reader" portrait by Nathaniel K. Gibbs, 1981 [1981.2.1])
1989-1999: Maintaining Momentum
From television and film to fashion and government, public displays of Black history and culture increased during the 1990s for a new generation that was removed from the Civil Rights Movement. Racial tensions were not over and there was still work to do. MCAAHC mirrored this moment by turning to youth education programs and exhibitions that would connect young Black Marylanders to their history and cultural traditions like quilting and doll making.
MCAAHC continued to advocate for, celebrate, and memorialize significant historic sites like the City Dock in Historic Annapolis, MD where the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial was dedicated. The Commission developed resources listing African American heritage sites around the state and joined with local museums to establish the Consortium of African American Museums in Maryland (CAAMM).
(Image [left]: Unidentified children in the Banneker-Douglass Museum exhibition "Pass It On: The Art of African American Children's Literature", 1995)
1999-2009: Inspiring Public Pride
Amidst nationwide economic turmoil and tragedy of the new millennium's first decade, the 2008 election of the first Black President of the United States, President Barrack H. Obama, gave generations of African Americans reason to celebrate. African American communities around the country found pride in their histories; and, the excitement reached all generations. The MCAAHC continued to focus on educating youth through programs like the youth summer camp hosted at BDM in 2000 and the 2002 “Statewide Teacher and Administrator Institute”.
The MCAAHC continued to honor and promote the legacies of contemporary Black Marylanders like Sylvia Gaither Garrison, BDM’s first librarian and namesake of the BDM's Sylvia Gaither Garrison Library. The Commission worked with Archaeology in Annapolis to excavate four dig sites which unearthed a wealth of finds. The artifacts were displayed in a BDM exhibition entitled Seeking Liberty to preserve this scholarship.
(Image [left]: A photograph of Sylvia Gaither Garrison)