Dr. Elmer Martin and Dr. Joanne Martin, two Baltimore educators, founded the nation's first black history wax museum in a store-front in downtown Baltimore in 1983.Their belief that "community development and cultural development go hand in hand" prompted them to locate the Museum in 1988 to the fragile Oliver Community in East Baltimore. This artistic and cultural center was intentionally relocated to a fragile, low-income community to stimulate economic development, attract tourists to the area, foster community pride, and offer a safe haven for a select group of at-risk youth.
Since its opening, the Museum has become a prominent, nationally recognized institution. It has also evolved into a powerful compendium of wax figures. The Museum houses about 150 figures of people from the past- like Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks and from the present-like President Barack Obama.
Also recorded in wax are all the noble ways African Americans have participated in the building of this country, from soldiers in the Civil War to members of the Freemasons. From the Western frontier to polar exploration to the space race, African Americans are highlighted for their contributions.
A primary motivation for establishing the wax museum was to "use education, history, and example to help culturally disadvantaged youth overcome feelings of alienation, defeatism, and despair."
The wax figures that find their place in The National Great Blacks In Wax Museum capture for posterity the emotions and strength that inspired The Martins to establish the Museum: Hope for a community and for the future.