A new exhibit, “Passion and Purpose: Voices of Maryland’s Civil Rights Activists,” will open to the public at the Maryland Center for History and Culture on May 20. (Photos by Lauren Walbert)

By Nicole D. Batey,
Special to the AFRO

The Maryland Center for History and Culture will open its new exhibit, “Passion and Purpose: Voices of Maryland’s Civil Rights Activists,” on May 20. In the exhibition, historic moments in the ongoing civil rights movement are told through the words and voices of those who lived it. Oral histories and photography connect past to present and provide personal perspectives on historical moments.

Oftentimes, the discussion of civil rights centers around what took place in southern states such as Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. However, Maryland offers a unique perspective to the movement, since the Mason-Dixon line runs through the state, and it is often seen as neither a particularly northern or southern state.

“We want to make sure people know that Maryland was involved in the civil rights movement; Maryland has its own story that is often overlooked, and this is our opportunity to tell it, focusing on the entire state, not just Baltimore,” said Maya Davis, director of the Riversdale House Museum in Prince George’s County and member of the curatorial panel for the exhibition.

From tearing down the notion of “separate but equal” in the 1930s and ’40s to the national headline-making protests of the 1960s and through today, Marylanders have been at the forefront of the Black freedom struggle. The lived experiences of these activists make up the complex mosaic of the long and continuing fight for civil rights in Maryland and across the nation.

This undated photo, captures a scene inside the Afro-American newspaper office. (Photograph by Paul Henderson/Paul Henderson)

Included in the exhibit are:

• The late Rev. Marion Curtis Bascom, Marylander and American civil rights leader, who marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Alabama and led marches and protests throughout Maryland

• The Jackson and Mitchell Family, noted Baltimore-based champions of the Civil Rights Movement throughout the 20th century

• Highlights from local Black churches fighting for equal rights- such as Bethel A.M.E. Church and Sharp Street U.M. Church

• The City-Wide Young People’s Forum, which helped put the Jim Crow practices of Baltimore out of business through direct action protests

• The Greater Baltimore Urban League, founded in 1924 to help disadvantaged Marylanders, especially African Americans, gain access to equal opportunity in employment, education, healthcare, housing, and the civic arena

• The AFRO-American Newspapers’ continuous coverage of lynching

Aside from Davis, other members of the curatorial panel are Elsa Barkley Brown, Ph.D., Linda Day Clark, Anthony M. Cohen, Roger Davidson, Jr., Ph.D., Joshua Clark Davis, Ph.D. Jason Green, Christopher E. Haley, Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr., Elgin L. Klugh, Ph.D., Denise D. Meringolo, Marshall F. Stevenson, Jr., Ph.D., and David Taft Terry, Ph.D.

“The center was very intentional about the people who were a part of the curatorial panel. Everyone who has been involved with this project, even with our skill sets being so vastly different, we all have a dedication to the story that’s being told,” said Davis.

 “Everyone should come to see this exhibition- especially Marylanders. We’re telling their stories and bringing forth a full representation across the state, in the hopes of bringing people into a deeper connection with civil rights history and perhaps, their own community.

“We want to engage and educate the public and other organizations to hopefully diminish what’s been happening, even now, as a result of racial tension,” she continued. “Let’s get to the root of where it stems from, how to counter it, and continue to move forward in equality for everyone.”

Passion and Purpose: Voices of Maryland’s Civil Rights Activists will open to the public on May 20, at the Maryland Center for History and Culture, located at 610 Park Avenue, Baltimore, Md. 21201.

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