2-22-12: Maryland’s Civil Rights Movement Seen and Heard

February 22, 2012 at 8:00 am 4 comments

Protest outside the segregated Ford's Theatre. Photograph by Paul Henderson, March 1948. Baltimore City Life Museum Collection.

On Thursday evening, the Maryland Historical Society will host a panel discussion to launch an exhibition called “Seen and Heard: Maryland’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs and Oral Histories.”

“Seen” is for the Henderson Photograph Collection, which contains thousands of prints from Paul Henderson, a photographer who spent much of his career at the Afro-American newspaper. “Heard” is for the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project. Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson headed of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP from 1935 to 1970–a span that included Theodore McKeldin’s terms as mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland. The oral history project contains interviews with civil rights figures about McKeldin and Jackson, their relationship, and their role in Baltimore’s civil rights movement.

Today, we’ll hear some audio from those oral histories, and we’ll discuss them with three guests. Jenny Ferretti is the Maryland Historical Society’s curator of photographs. Dr. Helena Hicks was part of the civil rights movement here in Baltimore; she took part in the downtown Baltimore Read’s Drug Store sit-in in 1955, and she serves as a commissioner on the Baltimore City Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation. And Fraser Smith, WYPR’s own senior news analyst and columnist for the Daily Record, wrote the book Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland.

Listen to the full conversation: [38:57]On Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., the Maryland Historical Society will host a free panel discussion to launch their “Seen and Heard.” Dr. Hicks will be a panelist—as will quite few other notable folks:

  • Larry Gibson, Professor of Law at University of Maryland, is also on the Board of Trustees of the Maryland Historical Trust, Commissioner for Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation and Chairman of the Commission to Coordinate the Study, Commemoration, and Impact of the History and Legacy of Slavery in Maryland.
  • Dr. Helena Hicks participated in the Read’s Drugstore sit-ins in downtown Baltimore in 1955, is a Morgan State graduate and Commissioner on the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.
  • Dr. Barry Lanman is the Director of the Martha Ross Center for Oral History at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He conducted some of the interviews in the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project.
  • Dr. Michelle Scott, also from University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is an Associate Professor who specializes in the study of race and ethnicity in the American experience with emphasis on African American history, black musical culture, and women’s studies.
  • William F. Zorzi was a reporter and editor at The Sun for nearly twenty years, writer for the last three seasons of The Wire television program on HBO, and is currently at work with partner David Simon on a book about the rise of the drug culture in Baltimore, using Pennsylvania Avenue and its habitues as the vehicles to tell the story.

The panel will be introduced by Dr. Skipp Sanders, Interim Director for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture and moderated by John Gartrell, archivist at the Afro-American Newspapers Archives and Research Center.

Jenny Ferretti, Dr. Helena Hicks, and Fraser Smith in the WYPR studios.

Entry filed under: Annapolis, History, Justice, Law, On Air. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

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4 Comments Add your own

  • […] WYPR’s Maryland Morning – Thursday, February 22 show with Jenny Ferretti, curator of pho… […]

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  • 2. David Eberhardt  |  February 22, 2012 at 11:21 am

    originally to:Jennifer Feretti-fr David Eberhardt 410-235-7507

    the operator gave me yr name as key for the “Seen and Heard” panel of Thursday pm- which I unfortunately, cannot make.

    The Historical Socity know about me from my peace movement days-you did a project you may freference on “The Baltimore Four) (we poured blood on draft files) but before that- there was my involvement in Civil Rights- as you can see by the memoir included at the bottom of this.

    I authored a 30 pg long – 8 &1/2 x 11 book called “The Soul Book” in 1964 with an equal # of action photos of our mv’t in Baltimore by Carl X. for my organization- CORE- the Congress on Racial Equality.

    We were militants and we were activists- and, except for the Reads Drug store participant on the panel- I fear that your panel may be rather tame.

    We spent time in jail for several protests- and- more than any other civil rights group in Baltimore- it is safe to say- CORE (and SNCC)- not the NAACP- followed Dr. King’s teachings that should be more in effect today- of militant, non violent, civil disobedience.

    Call me and I may be able to lend you one of the precious few copies (I probably have the only 2- but I also have all the photographs).

    Sincerely
    a lover of history but more of changing it

    David Eberhardt
    mozela9@comcast.net

    ex cerpt from memoirs
    I had stopped the teaching and had moved out of the parental nest and down into the city. A friend in the civil rights movement, Hal Smith, let me stay in his house on 25th Street. He was turning a basement into a memorial to a previous tenant, Bill Moore, a martyr to the civil rights movement. Moore had been a postman in Baltimore and went to the deep South on a one man walk to protest segregation, truly a suicidal mission. He walked roads in Alabama wearing a placard that read “Black and White, Eat at Joe’s”. He was shot and killed. Hal hoped to make the basement into a combination civil rights reading room and museum.

    I began attending CORE meetings, finding new gurus and “father figures”, notably the colorful Baltimorean/North Carolinian CORE leader, Walter Carter. (I didn’t know it at the time of course, but I would have one more “father figure” to apprentice under‑ Phil Berrigan and “mother figure”, my wife Louise whom I met at a CORE meeting‑ before I became my own father and had my own son). Perhaps I should also count Jay Worrall, founder of Offender Aid and Restoration, but by the time I got to Jay (1977), I was basically my own man.

    Louise was my flower girl. She bore an uncanny resemblance to the girl draped in flowers in Botticelli’s great painting of Venus- the woman to the side with the long thin nose. I always thought of Louise as “sandy”- that word stuck in my mind. She was sexy. I had dreamt of meeting someone and then I did. In relation to us, I also often thought of the Michel Legrand song, “What are you doing for the rest of your life” , although, alas, for the best, our relationship was not to last. It certainly was intense in the 900 block of Charles St. over the Bier Stube!

    CORE – which is where I met Louise- provided opportunities for accomplishment and grist for the writing mill. I advanced to the status of vice‑chairman of the Baltimore chapter and wrote and produced a booklet which was a combination of text and photos (by Carl X) called the “Soul Book” describing CORE and the ghetto conditions CORE was protesting in Baltimore. I drew courage from the inspired poetry, singing and imagery of the movement. With all the energy of youth it was even possible to find beauty in the shattering heat and poverty of the inner city, in the gray, humid light that fell on worn brick colors late afternoons and the gritty green of the slum growing weed tree, the ailanthus.

    The civil rights movement was an incubator for the development of exciting new techniques of non‑violent direct action and civil disobedience. One Saturday meeting we decided that a small group would test racist practices in apartment rentals and risk arrest to dramatize the issue of segregated housing. A Mr. Myerberg who built apartments in the inner city (and crammed Negroes, as they were called then, into them) also developed segregated suburban apartment complexes. We went in three cars to the Baltimore suburb of Reisterstown to one of his apartment complexes called Chartley. There we joined forces with Fred Nass, a white member of our housing subcommittee. Fred, with his wife and kids, would test availability of apartments for whites; then Walter Carter, a black who was Housing Committee chairman would ask about renting an apartment. If they turned Walter down we would begin a “sit in” protest demonstration. Other CORE members came with us to set up a picket line and begin marching outside if needed. The police had been informed. We brought walkie‑talkies for communication. There was to be no obvious connection for the rental agent between Fred and Walter.

    It’s not so much that blacks would want to live at Chartley- but they’d be damned if they weren’t going to have the right to say, No!

    Fred went into the rental office and the agent told him there were two apartments vacant. Then we came in with Walter. The agent introduced Fred: “Mr Carter, this is Mr. Nass.” Walt must have been nervous for he replied, “O yes, Fred Nass.” The agent didn’t catch the slip and went on to tell Walt that Fred had bought the last apartment. The agent then went outside with Fred and gave him a confidential nudge. According to plan, Fred told the agent he would reconsider when Walt asked Fred (as if he didn’t know him) if he (the “kind gentleman”) would give up the apartment. “I can’t let you sign the lease. I can’t give you an application,” the agent told Walt, even though he had just mentioned six possible apartments to Fred.

    “What’s your policy on selling to Negroes?” Walt asked. The agent replied that he’d never done it, refusing to give us any policy. We were wondering whether our fellow COREmate Jim Divers had ruined things by noisily moving around upstairs supposedly “looking the apartment over” because he’d left his walkie‑talkie on. We could hear CORE organizer Herb Callender (who was on the outside) coming in loud and clear through the walkie‑talkie from his position outside, “Freedom one to Freedom two, over.”

    “It looks clear cut, wouldn’t you say?” Walter asked and Fred agreed. Then Walter told the agent, “We’re from CORE and we’re sitting here ’til we get a policy statement and the same treatment as our white brothers.” We were glad things were going according to plan.

    The evening brought more pickets, blankets, food, curious onlookers and police, but no response from Myerberg. It looked like he was going to wait us out. But we were ready. “If Conrad and Cooper (who had just returned from space) can orbit for eight days,” said Walter, “we can outlast them …an inner space orbit.” Herb, a bona fide “outside agitator”, a CORE leader who had come down from headquarters in New York, dressed all in field hand denims like movement organizers in the South, led the pickets outside. He told us that we would need a continual picket in this neighborhood to publicize the sit‑in and to protect us from any mob. “The police might look the other way,” he warned. But our excitement was not to come from the onlookers, who were Marylanders, after all, not the more dangerous Mississippians or Alabamians.

    We waited through the next morning, groggy from a night’s rest on the floor. Some of the tired picketers came in and stretched out on the floor to get some rest. At about noon a representative of the Maryland Interracial Committee came out to mediate. Myerberg’s attorney was also on hand offering various ploys to get us out of the sample apartment. We were beginning to draw unwelcome publicity for his boss. First he offered to meet us on a Wednesday, then a Monday, then immediately…anywhere but in the model apartment. He still refused to give any policy statement. So, it’s obviously segregated, we happily concluded.

    Then the hammering began! Burly men were covering the back of the apartment with sheets of plywood. They came in and tore out our only toilet. They attached a hose to the only water tank. We got a little nervous. “Maybe they’re gonna flood us out,” Walt speculated as they brought the hose in. But for some reason they drained the tank. Did they think we were drinking it?

    The crowd of pickets and onlookers was growing. A lumber truck pulled up in front of the apartment and a carpenter made measurements as if to block up the front windows. We had stocked up with food for the long haul: jugs of water, gallons of peanut butter, loads of crackers, grapes, bananas, candy, even bags as replacement for the toilet.

    But the end was near. Myerberg called the police in and had us charged with trespassing. They led us out to a paddy wagon and took us to the nearest station where we waited for processing. We chatted with the very agent who’d sworn out the warrants. Somehow the conversation drifted onto reincarnation and the agent allowed that he wanted to come back rich. “But let me come back a man, one honest and angry man!” Walt rejoined. We signed a prisoner’s meal ticket and the jailer took our belts (so we wouldn’t hang ourselves I suppose) and then took us into the lockup. Walt regaled us with imitations of civil rights leaders; we chatted with a Mr. Smallwood who was awaiting trial for assault and battery and listened to the jailer kidding our friend Ray as he took his fingerprints. Soon they transferred us to a magistrate. We asked for a jury trial and I requested that the word “wantonly” be stricken from the trespassing charges (“He’s a poet,” Walt explained). We were quickly processed out on bond.

    Some persons with baseball bats at the exit alarmed us but it turned out they were softball players who had disturbed the peace. Walt remarked of Herb Callender, “He looks so young … so young … and you know why? He’s paid his dues, suffered, but is the freer inside for it.” It was the kind of thing Walt would say.

    Violent events further South made our struggle seem quite tame. We were emboldened to continue by the freedom riders and comforted and supported by the huge demonstrations in D.C. we joined knowing they would go into the history books, like the march on Washington in August of 1963 when Dr. King said he had a dream. I went. King’s amplified voice drifted up the mall towards the capitol, even more bell like than usual (this added for poetic effect).

    Inspiring music accompanied my civil rights involvement, accompanying the beads on the memory string, songs like “O Freedom” or “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round”. We sang as we sat with joined hands in a circle in the middle of Calvert Street to block traffic in protest of the segregated high rise Horizon House (where some 40 years later in 2003 I would deliver Sunpapers to apartments) ; we sang amidst thundering congregations in black churches. All my life any time the going got rough, “Ain’t gonna let nobody, turn me ’round, turn me ’round, ‘turn me ’round; keep on awalkin, keep on atalkin, walkin down to freedom land” might pop into my head. Later, all I had to do was fill in appropriate new lyrics as we had in the movement days, i.e. “ain’t gonna let my divorce, or ain’t gonna let obsessive compulsive behavior” etc. In one interview before his death, CORE leader James Farmer, talks about the Freedom Riders singing in the Jackson, Mississippi jail- “driving the jailers crazy”. There is a wonderful cd with “Sweet Honey in the Rock” and Berneice Reagon where you can hear these songs.

    cerpt:

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  • 3. David Eberhardt  |  February 22, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Having listened to the program w Sheila and Fraser, I must say, we run the risk of sugaring over and misrepresenting the movement in Baltimore and in general.
    Not to diss the achievements of such figures as Ms. L. Jackson or Mayor McKeldin and the churches- and not to say that only more radical measures- such as going to jail- carried the day- but!
    In the day- we militants, black and white, considered them to be sell outs of a sort.
    The shades of grey- and the tactics needed to advance the struglle are not being covered and are lost- I won’t say purposefully- but they are.
    Nor is there any mention of the racism that surrounds us NOW- and what to do about it. Do you think things are OK folx?

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  • […] 2012 February 22: Andrea Appleton’s story in City Paper is published. WYPR Maryland Morning show on the program and exhibition airs. […]

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