African-American Entertainment in Baltimore (2012)

This brief photobook was clearly produced by local talent and Baltimore insiders, who are rare gems for history buffs. This is an easy read, mainly because it is so image heavy, but it also sheds light on easier and brighter times for Charm City. It focuses on Pennsylvania Avenue at its height and Black owned businesses - from ateliers to bars, street vendors and grocery stores - that once thrived there. The owners and patrons bonded over their shared love for the city and its growing wealth for hard working Black families. Lineage is an unspoken common thread throughout the book, which mixes personal collections with private ones from institutions like the Peale Center to take us back in time to hotspots that no longer exist. It would have been helpful to have a map of the city to truly show where these sites were and to get a better sense of Black presence throughout different neighborhoods. But, it is clear that this repository of images from personal estates and family albums is rare, because it comes from a generation that is fast dwindling. The smiling faces and interracial jazz clubs remind us of what Baltimore was just decades ago in neighborhoods that today are still ravished by crime and drugs. In this way, the book is both sad and happy for anyone who loves all that Baltimore was and all that it still can be.

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