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Although Baltimore briefly served as national capital after the Revolution, this town is defined by her port. Besieged during the War of 1812 and riot-torn during the Civil War, Baltimore weathered both, dispatching Baltimore Clippers (the fastest sailing ships in the world) across the globe in her heyday.

The slow erosion of shipping, Great Depression and the loss of the steel industry in the 1970s all gutted Baltimore. The boom and bust cycle has carved this city’s character, attracting and dispersing immigrants into Baltimore’s ethnic enclave neighborhoods. The city is 70% African American, mixing persistent black poverty with a African American middle class that is one of the nation’s oldest and most culturally significant.

During the 1980s the Inner Harbor was spruced up into the city’s centerpiece. Gentrification projects remain a double-edged sword, carving out urban rot in some places while simultaneously pricing out the urban poor.