Who We Are
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture is deeply rooted in the Maryland African American community. These deep roots have enabled the museum to stand tall and serve the community during a year that has presented many challenges. Although the Lewis Museum was closed during most of the first quarter of Fiscal Year 2021, it reopened its doors to the public in mid-September with two new exhibitions: Freedom Bound: Runaways of the Chesapeake and Make Good Trouble: Marching for Change. These exhibitions expressed both the past and present desires and actions of African Americans who fought oppression with resistance. Guided virtual tours of these exhibitions were also provided.
Fiscal Year 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd. The grim occasion provided an opportunity to partner with community organizations to evaluate the progress made against the statements of commitment toward honoring Black lives, diversity, equity, and inclusion. The Lewis Museum also partnered with the Baltimore Police Department to provide training classes to cadets before they are assigned to the street. The training educated the cadets about the ugly history of policing the Black communities and the impact it has had on community relations. Additional programs included an event to commemorate and educate participants about the tragedy of the Tulsa Massacre and a celebration of the first federal Juneteenth holiday.
As Covid-19 continued to take a heavy toll on Black and Brown communities, the Lewis Museum was privileged to join its partner, Kaiser Permanente, in hosting the second annual African Americans in Health Care Awards. This year featured UMBC President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski interviewing UMBC alumna, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, a viral immunologist at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center. Dr. Corbett provided plain talk about the safety and effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines and the extensive work that had been done on the vaccine prior to the pandemic.
Despite the challenges this year brought, the Lewis Museum has continued to provide cultural enrichment through public programming, partnerships, and outstanding exhibitions for Marylanders and all other visitors. This annual report summarizes the work of a dedicated staff and board in a year that presented several roadblocks and numerous opportunities. The Lewis Museum thanks you for your support in 2021 looks forward to seeing you in 2022 and beyond.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture is a unique institution with the ability to preserve our past while helping shape our future. During my first year as chair, we experienced a worldwide pandemic, but the Museum persevered and utilized technology of the virtual world to connect, share and educate.
While our doors were closed for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020, we continued to share our permanent collection and 11,000 artifacts. As the authentic voice of Maryland African American History, we utilized our online platforms to provide education programs for students, training for teachers and public programming addressing Issues from slavery to the current struggle for racial equality, both locally and nationally.
Our signature exhibit, Elizabeth Catlett: Artist as Activist, was recognized as best exhibit of the year in the state. Ms. Catlett considered one of the most important African American artists of the 20th century, used art to support issues that mattered to her, including freedom, racial equality and feminism. The exhibit also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Women’s suffrage movement in the United States. Thanks to supporters from Maryland and the northeast region who loaned their paintings and sculptures, the Museum did not incur a leasing fee for the exhibit.
From youth summits to opportunities to unravel family DNA, the Lewis provided discussions, programs and activities to educate, inform and entertain visitors. Our board is committed to continually moving the museum forward, sharing our amazing history and our 87,000 square feet of space as a safe place for learning and experiencing our past, present and future.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture is even more important today than when it opened its doors to the public in 2005. How we see and understand ourselves was brought to life in this museum by an entire year of exhibitions, programs and activities. From the colorful paintings and prints of Romare Bearden, to the harshness of derogatory and stereotypical images seen in Hateful Things, visitors had the opportunity to gaze and discuss issues of race, ethnicity, religion and the Jim Crow past that continue to affect all Americans.
Great institutions have years when they truly change the game in product, service and accessibility. The Reginald F. Lewis Museum in 2018 had such a year. Our exhibitions, programs and outreach activities were exceptional. We engaged visitors and new audiences in ways like never before. The Lewis stepped boldly into its place on the local and statewide art scene as the authentic voice of African American art, history and culture.
The Lewis worked diligently to be timely and plugged in to what the community needed to see reflected in art and conversation. Our exhibition Kin Killin Kin looked to put a face on the epidemic of black on black crime and Sons served to challenge all that viewed it on the ways we viewed black men. These exhibits were only the start of important dialog at the Lewis.
The 82,000 square feet of space isn’t just for people to come and stand and look at what’s on the wall or exhibit. It’s for us to come and interact and use.
Wanda Draper, Executive Director