Do you know how many stations of the Underground Railroad are in Maryland? Where is Negro Mountain located? Do you know what that is?
If you want the answers to these questions and more, a conversation with Lou Fields could be helpful. He’s the co-founder and president of the Baltimore African American Tourism Council of Md., the mission of which is to research, document, preserve and promote the history and achievements of African Americans in the state of Maryland. One of the main objectives of this organization is to create a marketable product and to generate stakeholders and investors to bring awareness to Maryland’s rich African-American history and culture.
For the past 20 years, Fields has worked tirelessly to research and highlight the historically significant sites throughout the state of Maryland and to generate revenue to bring attention to these areas. During the tourism season his organization hosts walking tours such as the Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman walking tours through Baltimore city as well as the Billy Holiday Walking tour.
“Another focus of our research is the path of the Underground Railroad through Maryland. The AATC has spent so many years researching the rest stops through the counties in Maryland,” Fields said. “The list of significant African American historical sites in Maryland is massive, including the Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass Museums in Dorchester, Md.; Negro Mountain in Garrett County, Md.” And of course The National Great Blacks in Wax and the Reginald F. Lewis museums in Baltimore city to name a few.
The vision of the tourism council is that these sites are preserved and incorporated into the overall tourism profile of the state of Maryland. In 2000 the AATC went before the Maryland General Assembly to propose a bill that created a national day of recognition for Harriet Tubman. That bill was passed and March 10th was designated to commemorate the life of Harriet Tubman. Each year since this law was passed the AATC has planned statewide events just for this purpose.
Believe it or not Maryland has more sites significant to the history of African Americans than New York and Georgia and the movement to bring greater awareness to these areas is strong. Each year the organization hosts a strategic planning symposium to highlight the status of African-American Tourism and the benefits of investing in Cultural tourism. This year the Charm City Cultural Heritage Symposium will be held on Nov. 6-8, with representatives from cultural centers and Black businesses. To ensure the history is passed to the young people of Maryland, the AATC is providing complimentary admission to high school and college students interested in careers in history, heritage preservation, tourism and hospitality. Speakers for the event include Her Excellency Tebelelo Mazile Seretse, ambassador from the Republic of Botswana as well as Neil Schumaker, from New York, who conducts the Harlem Heritage Tours. Ambassador Seretse will speak at the 10 a.m., Nov. 7 session at the Reginald Lewis Museum. Participants will be treated to walking tours as well as events hosted by the Reginald F. Lewis Museum and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum.
Fields said participating in this event “is a perfect way to get to glimpse of the history of African Americans in Maryland and to gain an understanding of the needs to invest in the buildup of tourism in these areas.”
For more information on the symposium, email [email protected]