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Baltimore: A great destination for African-American tourism

J.B. Salganik's suggestion that Baltimore City celebrate and promote its unique connection to black culture and history is exactly what the late Thelma Banks Cox had in mind when she founded the African-American Heritage Society and the Black Landmarks Tour of Baltimore ("Baltimore's true identity," Sept. 6).

As regional superintendent of the Baltimore City Public Schools in the 1970s, Ms. Cox was a strong advocate for curriculum focusing on Baltimore's African-American history and culture — so much so, in fact, that she lost her job.

Alice Morgan-Brown, a former principal of Northern High School, picked-up the advocate's mantle for an Afro-centric curriculum in the 1990s. She supported African-American history and heritage tours, which resulted in her leaving the state of Maryland.

Baltimore's greatest educator, the late Samuel Banks, who headed the social studies department of the Baltimore City Public School System, endured decades of frustration as a cheerleader for Baltimore's African-American history and culture.

As founder and president of Renaissance Productions and Tours, Baltimore's oldest tour company that highlights the achievements and contributions of Baltimore's African-American community, I worked with the late Del. Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, Joanne Martin, president of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Alice Torriente, president of African-American Cultural Tours and many others to transform Baltimore into the "Colonial Williamsburg of African-American History" at over 25 different locations across the city. But funding for the project was lost after Delegate Rawlings' death.

Still, black history tours attract thousands of visitors every year, thanks to Thomas Noonan and the staff at Visit Baltimore. After so many years of neglect, the city is finally beginning to promote Baltimore as a destination for African-American tourism in a significant way.

Thomas Saunders, Baltimore

The writer is president of Renaissance Productions and Tours.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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