As we continue to profile Maryland women who have made an everlasting impact on our state, we’re featuring Shauntee Daniels, current Executive Director of the Baltimore National Heritage Area, an organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Baltimore’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. The Baltimore National Heritage Area is one of 13 certified heritage areas in Maryland and one of 55 Congressionally designated national heritage areas across the country.

Falling in love with the history and culture of Baltimore

Daniels didn’t start her career in heritage tourism. After 20 years in the corporate world of insurance services and 10 years in publishing, Daniels switched gears and became a tour guide in Baltimore. “I just wanted to do something different,” she said, “something meaningful to me. I jumped to learn as much as I could about Baltimore’s history and cultural heritage.”

“History starts with it being relevant to you. The amount of African American history in Maryland, Baltimore was astounding to me.  I began to love the people, the places, and the architecture.  Baltimore has it all, what’s there not to love!  Oh yes, we have our issues but that comes from being an urban city with a long, long history.  This is not New York nor Washington, DC.  Baltimore has a soul.  The bones of this city belong to the people – free, enslaved, Native, Black, and White.” -Shauntee Daniels, Executive Director, Baltimore National Heritage Area

Standing with community members cleaning up at the Billie Holiday statue and Park, in West Baltimore

Growing up in the Midwest and California, Daniels had only learned the basic history of Black Americans. But working as a tour guide allowed her to grow her horizons and connect to her ancestors. “Baltimore has a soul,” Daniels said. “Not only did Baltimore sing to me with its Black history that I could relate to, but it’s a ‘block-by-block’ kind of place, like the people who reside here. Everyone has a different story.”

Daniels began working for Baltimore National Heritage Area in 2008

Back then, the organization was called Baltimore City Heritage Area (the organization received its national designation in 2009). Daniels worked as an Education Administrator, building a more cohesive relationship with the Mayor’s Office and developing a marketing plan that gave BHNA $50,000. In 2013, she became the Director of Programs and Outreach for the organization. In this position, she doubled the number of urban ranger walking tours and created the Heritage Neighborhood grant program. In March of 2019, she was named Executive Director.

Daniels has had many accomplishments throughout her time with BHNA

Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford, Roz Johnson, and Shauntee Daniels unveiling the Parks Sausage Plaque on MLK Blvd, where the Parks Sausage Plant once stood.

B&O Railroad Museum

Her proudest achievements include the The Neighborhood Placemaking Grant program, which offers neighborhoods within the Heritage Area the chance to improve communities for residents and tourists and outreach to youth – like Kids in Kayaks, Kids on Trails, and History Through Arts, all of which allow children to see Baltimore through a new lens.

“Some of my first experiences in Baltimore will last with me forever,” said Daniels. “I was amazed to visit the Baltimore Museum of Industry to find how so many everyday things were invented or manufactured right here! A trip to the B&O Railroad, the place bolded in my fourth-grade social studies book.  Lastly, to visit National Great Blacks in Wax, a museum telling our story with Black people in wax. Only in Baltimore.  As a guide, it was possible I was walking the same streets of Frederick Douglass or Harriet Tubman.”

Under Daniels’ leadership the Baltimore National Heritage Area is invested in doing work through grant programs, public programming, and other activities that support Baltimore’s youth, museums, and communities to understand, love and live Baltimore City’s cultural heritage.