1:13 PM / Thursday November 30, 2023

27 Jan 2012

Seen & Heard: Maryland’s civil rights era in photographs and oral histories, Feb. 23rd

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January 27, 2012 Category: Diaspora Posted by:

Civil rights photo exhibition and panel discussion at MdHS


ABOVE PHOTO: Thurgood Marshall, who became the first black U.S. Supreme Court Justice, receiving National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Life Membership Plaque from Carl Murphy, Editor of the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper in 1956. This and other historic Henderson photos will be exhibited at the Maryland Historical Society on February 23.

(Photo: Paul S. Henderson (1899-1966) Paul Henderson Photograph Collection Maryland Historical Society HEN.00.A2-148)


Baltimore, Maryland – The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) will explore the Paul Henderson Photograph Collection (ca. 1930-1960) and the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project (1969-1977) in a Black History Month event on February 23 from 6-8 PM. There will be a panel discussion and accompanying exhibition. The panelists will discuss their personal affiliations and expertise with the civil rights struggle in Maryland in relation to the collections. Dr. Helena Hicks, one of only three surviving members of the widely publicized sit-in at Read’s Drugstore in Baltimore, will reveal the impromptu nature of the 1955 protest. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is free.


Dr. Helena Hicks was a Morgan State College student in 1955. She and other black students were denied service at the Read’s Drug Store in downtown Baltimore and decided to stage a sit-in, one of the earliest in America. “It was completely impromptu,” says Dr. Hicks. A front-page headline in the Afro-American newspaper read, “Now serve all” after the success at Read’s. Its impact sparked a firestorm of protests resulting not only in the desegregation of Read’s but also the shut down of the White Coffee Pot restaurant chain where patrons refused to cross picket lines. “We led the way,” says Dr. Hicks, “and it was a direct result of Lillie Carroll [Jackson]. She had put into us as youngsters that you had to stand up, you were equal, and you had to make the rest of the world understand and respect that. Don’t let anyone take freedom away from you.”


Dr. Skipp Sanders, the Interim Director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of African American History and Culture, will introduce the panel and John Gartrell, the Archivist at the Afro-American Newspapers Archives and Research Center, will moderate.


Dr. Hicks, currently a commissioner of the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), will be joined by Larry Gibson, Professor of Law at University of Maryland; Dr. Barry Lanman, Professor and Director of the Martha Ross Center for Oral History at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and initial interviewer in the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project; Dr. Michelle Scott, an associate professor at UMBC; and William F. Zorzi, former reporter and editor for nearly twenty years at The Baltimore Sun newspaper and co-writer for the HBO series “The Wire”.


Paul Henderson (1899-1966) was an African American photographer who worked in Baltimore from the 1930s to 1960s. Much of his career was spent at the Afro-American newspaper. Henderson documented both significant events and every day life in Baltimore’s African American communities, leaving behind a collection of over 6,000 photographs never seen in its entirety. A selection of Henderson’s photography will be on display outside of the H. Furlong Baldwin Library.


Henderson captured images of Paul Robeson, concert singer, protesting the Jim Crow admissions policy at Baltimore’s Ford Theatre, a protest that lasted seven years. He photographed significant leaders such as Juanita Jackson Mitchell, the first African American woman to practice law in the state of Maryland and Thurgood Marshall, council to the NAACP before becoming the first African American Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Morgan State College (now University), vocational schools, church and civic organizations are also well represented in the collection.


The McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project is an inquiry into the civil rights movement in Maryland during the mid 20th century focusing on the roles played by two Maryland leaders, Governor Theodore McKeldin and Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson. From 1974 through 1977, volunteers conducted eighty-five interviews with civil rights activists and leaders, as well as those who opposed the movement. Interviewees discuss their involvement with the NAACP, Maryland politics, law, education, and their relationship with Governor McKeldin and Dr. Jackson.


The Maryland Historical Society was founded in 1844 and is the largest museum and library dedicated to the history of Maryland. Occupying an entire city block in the Mount Vernon district of Baltimore, the Society’s mission is to “collect, preserve, and interpret the objects and materials that reflect Maryland’s diverse cultural heritage.” The Society is home to the original manuscript of the Star-Spangled Banner and publishes a quarterly titled Maryland Historical Magazine. More information about the Maryland Historical Society can be found online at

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