The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum is among the nations most dynamic cultural and educational institutions. Because it is a wax museum committed solely to the study and preservation of African American history, it is also among the most unique.
Primarily, the presentation of life-size, life-like wax figures highlighting historical and contemporary personalities of African ancestry defines its uniqueness.
The National Great Blacks in Wax museum is Baltimore's first wax museum and the first wax museum of African American history in the nation. The museum was started as a grassroots operation by Dr. Elmer Martin and his wife Dr. Joanna Martin.
The idea of blacks in wax started with a few wax figures that were taken around to various schools, community centers, and malls.
The museum was originally sponsored exclusively by Dr. Elmer Martin, his wife Dr. Joanna Martin, and donations from the community. In the early days, Dr. Elmer Martin was forced to ask his wife to sell her wedding ring to keep the moving exhibit going.
However, it received national recognition in 1983 when the founding members were allotted grants, loans, and endowments to open a permanent exhibition. In 1988, Blacks in Wax received its permanent home on the 1600 block of North Avenue in the neighborhood of Oliver.
The site was originally home to a firehouse that was converted into a show house. In 2004, The Blacks in Wax Museum was recognized by the U.S. Congress and became The National Blacks in Wax Museum.