Iris Leigh Barnes, of Havre de Grace, the executive director of the Hosanna School Museum in Darlington, was appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan to the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture. She was sworn in as a commissioner for a four-year appointment on Oct. 20.
The Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture is committed to discovering, documenting, preserving, collecting and promoting Maryland’s African American heritage.
The commission also provides technical assistance to institutions and groups with similar objectives. The goal of the commission is to educate residents and visitors about the significance and impact of the African American experience in Maryland.
The commission is part of the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.
“It is an honor and a pleasure to work with the historical and cultural institutions in Maryland to help them advance their missions to preserve the rich history of our state," Barnes said. "Much of what happened in Maryland, and particularly in Harford County, reverberated across the country and had an impact on regional and national events."
"African American history provides incredible stories that illustrate the tenacity and power of the human spirit, and that history is important for everyone to know in order to truly understand our country and its culture,” Barnes said. “That’s what makes this work on the commission important, and I am so honored to be a part of it.”
As executive director of the Hosanna School Museum, Barnes is helping coordinate the 150th anniversary this year of the restored Freedmen’s Bureau School, the first public school for African Americans in Harford County.
She is also the curator of the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum in Baltimore, owned by Morgan State University. The museum tells the story of many Marylanders including Thurgood Marshall, Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., Juanita Jackson Mitchell and Margaret Carey and their work to eliminate racial inequality.
Barnes is the recipient of several national and local awards including being named an inaugural Interpretation Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the National Association of Interpreters; a two-time Diversity Fellow for the National Trust for Historical Preservation; and a Wing Research Fellow at the Maryland Historical Society.
In addition, she was a lead member of the Hays-Heighe House and Hosanna School Museum teams that sponsored the “Faces of Freedom: The Upper Chesapeake, Maryland, and Beyond” initiative, which was awarded a Maryland Preservation Award by the Maryland Historical Trust.
Barnes is completing her doctorate in history at Morgan State University. She also holds a master's in museum studies and historical preservation from Morgan. Her bachelor's degree is in graphic design and art education from Temple University.