In recognition of African American History Month, MTA encourages everyone to take a ride through history on MTA Local Bus, Metro Subway and Light Rail. Baltimore’s own Camden Station, now a major transit hub for Light Rail and MARC Train, was used by Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad between 1850 and 1860 as part of a network of secret routes and safe houses used by slaves wishing to escape to free states and Canada.
Continuing north, next to the Battle Monument at the corner of Calvert and Lexington streets, is the Black Soldier Memorial Statue, a 13-foot bronze statue sculpted by James E. Lewis, who was chairman of the art department at Morgan State University for 36 years. The statue stands in an open space facing the elegant War Memorial Building, the same location where then President-elect Barack Obama delivered his speech in 2008.
Passing the corner of Pennsylvania and Lafayette streets, you can see a statue that memorializes jazz songstress Billie Holiday next to the renovated Royal Theater, where Billie and Cab Calloway got their start. MTA, a catalyst in Baltimore’s Westside Revitalization, supported the Royal Theater Monument and Park project (dedicated on April 5, 2004) with funding for sidewalks, fencing, columns and a new bus shelter. To discover more fascinating African American historical facts and places to visit, visit the special VisitBaltimore™ website that features inventors, cultural attractions, museums, monuments and historic sites – all accessible by MTA.
One inventor that had a particularly large impact on the development of public transportation and MTA in particular, was Granville T. Woods, a self-taught electrical and mechanical engineer who received numerous patents that aided the development of railroads. His patented system for overhead electric conducting lines aided in the development of the catenary system that is used today by MTA’s Light Rail cars.
Many noteworthy African American inventors and pioneers are featured at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture on Pratt Street, just across from the Shot Tower Metro Subway Station and accessible by Local Buses 7, 10 and 31. Opened on June 25, 2005, the Museum features special exhibits and collections and is the East Coast’s largest African American Museum and the second largest museum of its kind in the world.