Nanny Jack & Co.’s Philip Merrill: Baltimore History “We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.” (historian John Hope Franklin)
This quote perfectly describes the work I’ve done over the past few decades: to preserve, document, and uplift the African American story. In this mission, I’ve worn many hats: published author, public speaker, appraiser, and TV personality formerly with both the PBS Antiques Roadshow and the regional PBS Chesapeake Collectibles. More importantly, I am the CEO & Founder of Nanny Jack & Co, LLC, an African American heritage consulting firm with a vast archive of thousands of African American artifacts from slavery to pop culture. I was born in historic Old West Baltimore and spent the first six years of my life in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood. I spent the next four years in Park Heights and the remaining of my adolescence into adulthood was spent in historic Ten Hills, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Baltimore, that my family integrated. My mother, Betty L. Merrill, was a longtime educator who eventually established and headed up a nonprofit job training institute for disadvantaged people. My father, George B. Merrill, was also an educator and lawyer, eventually becoming a pastor. My great-grandmother, Gertrude Jackson, also known as Nanny Jack, lived with our family and helped raise me and fostered my love for history. I was one of only two African American students in my graduating class at the Friends School of Baltimore and then went on to graduate from Loyola College (now University) of Maryland and to receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Eastern Theological Seminary in Lynchburg, Virginia. In 1994, I founded Nanny Jack & Co, an archives and consulting agency specializing in creating projects that illuminate the African American experience through Black Americana, oral history, and research. The company houses thousands of artifacts that include photographs, rare books, folk art, documents, music, dolls, furniture, quilts, and more. Over the years, I’ve served on numerous heritage and preservation boards. Most notably, I was a Commissioner on the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP). I’ve consulted with the Smithsonian, Johns Hopkins University, the History Channel, and the National Park Service. I’ve provided content for films, books, and magazines. My oral history is archived as HistoryMaker at the Library of Congress. I’m the editor of The World War II Black Regiment That Built The Alaska Military Highway: A Photographic History (2002). I’m the author of three books, The Art of Collecting (1998), Black America Series: Baltimore (1999), and more recently, Images of America: Old West Baltimore (2020). I’m also the host of the Artifactual Journey podcast, which you can listen to on Anchor, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcast. nannyjack.com is the parent company of oldwestbaltimore.com and the Artifactual Journey podcast.
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