Maryland promotes tourist sites focusing on black culture Black culture of state showcased in guide for tourists

May 29, 1993|By Sandra Crockett | Sandra Crockett,Staff Writer

Harriet Tubman was the leader of the underground railroad who masterminded the escape route from the South for many slaves.

Matthew Henson was an explorer recruited by Adm. Robert E. Peary to make the expedition to the North Pole.

Kunte Kinte was a slave whose family's story was chronicled for millions of Americans by the late author Alex Haley.

These three people are part of Maryland's rich African-American heritage, and state officials want the world to know.

"We are trying to market Maryland to the African-American market," says Marilyn Corbett, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED).

To that end, state officials are distributing "Maryland's African American Culture," a guide published by American Visions magazine. The free guide highlights African-American history, culture and current attractions.

"The state has a lot to offer besides Harborplace," says Del. Howard P. "Pete" Rawlings, D-City.

As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Mr. Rawlings has long been concerned that neighboring states were taking the lead in promoting African-American culture and activities.

"There are other states doing a good job targeting this audience, such as Pennsylvania and Virginia. This state needed to do a better job targeting the African-American community," Mr. Rawlings says.

Thirty million people nationwide make up the African-American consumer market, and it is expected to grow by 19 percent by 2000, according to DEED figures.

The state's tourism industry supports more than 130,000 jobs and generates about $8 billion annually, serving approximately 30 million tourists each year. About 65 percent of the tourists are from out of state, says George Williams, director of the Office of Tourism.

But with the right promotion, that number can grow, Mr. Rawlings says.

"I have continued to raise questions about the impact it [the state's promotion campaign] has on the African-American community. I wanted to make sure the promotion of the state presents a true picture and not just one of white people," Mr. Rawlings says.

About three years ago, the state began to complete plans for the guide, he says. "With Mark Wasserman [secretary of DEED]" and others, things began to come together, he says.

Since March, advertisements highlighting Maryland's African-American culture have been appearing in national and local publications, some with African-American target audiences.

"Not only will this initiative bring new visitors to our state, but it will help make Marylanders more aware of the contributions of African Americans to our state," Gov. William Donald Schaefer said when unveiling the campaign.

Besides DEED's Office of Tourism Development, the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture worked on the plan to bring more tourists -- and tourist dollars -- to the state.

Mr. Rawlings says it is a good first step. "It's a very limited start because of budget concerns," he says. "It could have been more comprehensive. But I think it is an important beginning."

Here are a few of the attractions listed in the guide:

* The Great Blacks in Wax Museum, 1603 E. North Ave. (410) 563-3404

* Matthew Henson State Park, 13300 block of Georgia Avenue, at the end of Hewitt Road in Aspen Hill.

* The Harriet Tubman Coalition, which conducts tours of four Harriet Tubman sites in the Cambridge area, (410) 228-0401.

* The Black American Museum, 1769 Carswell St., Baltimore, (410) 243-9600.

For a free copy of "Maryland's African American Culture," call DEED's Office of Tourism at (800) 457-4146.

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