African Americans who played pivotal roles in Baltimore’s Civil Rights Movement were honored at a recent ceremony organized by Delta Centennial Torch Tour Baltimore-Annapolis.
Dozens of people were on hand May 19 for a program entitled “Civil Rights Reflections: Delta and the Pioneering Forces of Civil Rights in Baltimore.”
The event took place at the corner of Park Avenue and Lexington Street under a cloudy sky. The program honored Dr. Thelma Daley, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. 16th National President, and the late Vashti Turley Murphy, a Founder of the sorority.
The program, moderated by Salima Siler Marriott, recognized the efforts of civil rights leaders who stirred political change with sit-ins in 1955 and 1963. The sit-ins at Read’s Drug Store at the intersection of Lexington Street and Park Avenue by Morgan State University students working with members of the Baltimore chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality were staged in 1955 and were among the modern Civil Rights Movement’s earliest acts of civil disobedience aimed at overturning segregation practices.
The highlight of the ceremony occurred when a street was renamed and dedicated in the name of Vashti Turley Murphy, one of the 22 Delta founders and a charter member of Baltimore Alumnae Chapter. Monica Watkins, Torch Tour Chair conveyed the honor and read the proclamation to the Murphy Family in celebration of Vashti Turley Murphy’s contribution to the sorority and civil rights in Baltimore.
Many of her family members were in attendance as Delta granddaughters Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, National Chaplain of the sorority, Rev. Dr. Marie Murphy Phillips Braxton, and Rev. Frances “Toni” Draper unveiled the street sign. Area Delta Presidents Eleanor Matthews, Baltimore Alumnae; Hattie Penn, Annapolis Alumnae, Jeri Reid, Baltimore County and Cimmon Byrd Burris, Baltimore Metropolitan Alumnae presided over the historic occasion as well as serve on the Torch Tour steering committee.
The audience included several members of the sorority including Robin Jacobs, Eastern Regional Director of the Sorority. Honorees included G.I. Johnson, past president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP; Dr. Cynthia Neverdon-Morton, a student at Morgan State jailed during the Northwood movie demonstration; and retired Maryland State Sen. Michael B. Mitchell.
Other civil rights pioneers at the event were Dr. Joyce Thomas, Eleanor Matthews, Laura Phillips Byrd, Lurline Jones, Lois Wassinger, Alice Gettysburg Downs, Wilhelmina Goff, Barbara Mosley Davis and Toni Green.
The Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. centennial celebration will occur in Washington, DC July 11 to 17th.