The Banneker-Douglass Museum in Annapolis celebrated the reopening of its doors Saturday, a year and a half after a closure caused by COVID-19.
At a block party outside the museum local vendors sold goods and shared history.
A descendant of the Quanders, one of the oldest African-American families in our nation’s history, was selling books about them illustrated by his wife. The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation Inc. was there sharing snippets of its newest project, which chronicles the history of trailblazing Black women in Anne Arundel County.
African American women were the last to have doors opened to them, and usually needed to knock the door down, Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Foundation Director Patsy Baker Shear said.
Their new project educates about people like medical doctor Faye Allen, the first Black female doctor in the county, and Margaret Crowner, who ran a cook shop to feed workers in Galesville, which also served as a gathering place.
“It represents people who were the backbone of a lot of things,” she said.
Capturing the stories of local women is important and urgent work, as people with connections to that history can die, their story along with them if it isn’t captured.
Apparel with Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and other historic figures was also being sold. A child and his father were selling lemonade, a business started by the kid to save for his college education, with flavors including watermelon mint, strawberry and half and half.
The museum’s Director Chanel Compton said it was like a family reunion.
Compton said the museum focused on creating socially and culturally relevant online programs during the pandemic, through which more than 50,000 people were reached. Those online programs, which will continue, include workshops on historic preservation, Black history and anti-racism training.
“There are still people who don’t feel comfortable at group events but they still want to be exposed to critical conservations on racial equity, on Black history and historic preservation,” she said. “Doing these virtual programs has opened us up to new community partners, a statewide audience, new participants, but also a national audience as well.”
Now that the museum has reopened its front doors, guests can return to the museum’s historic building, the former Mount Moriah African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Annapolis. Stained glass from the former church adorns the wall, but the space has been updated. A second story exhibit shows what the view from the deck of the ship approaching Annapolis would see, and the beams beneath, visible from the lower level, are meant to look like the lower deck of the ship.
A new exhibit, “Freedom Bound: Runaways of the Chesapeake,” will be on display at the museum through March 1. The exhibit, developed by Historic Annapolis in 2013, was recently shown at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Baltimore.
“We thought it was more than fitting to bring it to the Banneker-Douglas Museum, because we are on the Chesapeake,” Compton said.
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More information on programs and the museum’s hours of operation can be found at bdmuseum.maryland.gov.