Skip to main content

What's Up Magazine

History in the Making

Feb 16, 2012 09:16PM ● By Anonymous
The conceptual picture of Maryland brings about notions of nautical leisure, chaotic city life, and the oh-so-prized blue crab. But beneath the surface of Maryland’s history sits a facet of African American life that remains untouched.

The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture lies right in the heart of Baltimore. By “being the premier experience and best source for information and inspiration about the lives of African American Marylanders,” The Reginald F. Lewis Museum is a staple of Maryland’s heritage.


Named after Reginald F. Lewis, the museum operates to honor the African American culture in Maryland. Reginald F. Lewis was born December 7, 1942, in East Baltimore. Coming from a bluecollar family, Lewis began his drive for wealth at the early age of 10, working as a delivery boy for a local Afro-American newspaper. During his senior year at Virginia State University, he was selected by the Rockefeller Foundation to attend summer school at Harvard. Following the summer program, Lewis was invited to attend Harvard Law School, making him the only person in the 148-year history of the school to be admitted before applying. Within two years of graduation, Lewis established the first African American law firm on Wall Street.

“Mr. Lewis [1942–1993] was a native Baltimore entrepreneur and philanthropist who served as chair and chief executive officer of TLC Beatrice International, the largest U.S. company owned by an African American during his lifetime,” says Cherrie Woods, director of marketing and public relations. “He remains an important icon both as an accomplished business man who gained international prominence and as a generous humanitarian who was dedicated to educating and inspiring others.”


Former Governor William Donald Schaefer appointed the Maryland African American Museum Corporation (the “museum”), with the three primary goals of education, preservation and interpretation, and tourism. In 2002, the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation awarded the museum a $5 million endowment for educational programs; in turn the museum was renamed after Lewis. With more than 14 million tourists per year, the museum has become both a historical and cultural point of interest in Baltimore.

Nestled in the hub of the Inner Harbor, the museum encompasses 82,000-square-feet within a five-story structure. The Learning Center provides visitors with the opportunity to learn about the African American experience from the past to present, both throughout Maryland and internationally. With touch-screen computers, printers and Internet access, the Learning Center links guests with an ample supply of readily available information. The Oral History Recording & Listening Studio gives visitors a chance to listen to recorded oral histories, told by both famous and not-so-famous African American Marylanders, also allowing the opportunity to record their own oral history. A 200-seat theater hosts a variety of events from theatrical, dance, and musical productions to films and lectures. One of the most striking features of the museum is the Red Wall of Freedom. A main focal point of the building’s architecture, the Red Wall, is a vibrant red, 96-foot high curving wall that symbolizes the “creativity, strong character, and indomitable spirit of the Africans and their descendents.”

With both permanent and temporary exhibitions, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum houses a variety of media that exemplify the importance of the African American culture within Maryland and the U.S. Currently, there are three permanent exhibitions on show in the museum: Things Hold Lines Connect; Building Maryland, Building America; and The Strength of the Mind. Each of the permanent exhibits speaks of Maryland’s African American history, the tragic history of slavery in the state and country and the accomplishments made by Maryland African Americans.


“We want people to understand that black history is American history and that it is important to people of all cultures and ethnicities,” says Woods.

For more information, hours of operation, and to plan your outing, visit Africanamericanculture.org or call 443-263-1800.