Morgan Unveils a More Accurate Depiction of Civil Rights History

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Morgan State University assumes its rightful place in this country’s civil rights history after university officials, joined by civil rights activist and U.S. Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), Rep. Elijah Cummings, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, honored more than 150 Morgan State College alumni who picketed, protested and, in many cases, were arrested in the name of civil rights while they were students. In addition to those former students who were recognized for their heroic actions at the time, the University also unveiled a permanent exhibit that depicts the history of sit-ins, protests and mass arrests that occurred between 1947 and 1963, involving many hundreds of students from what was then Morgan State College.

“It is important that our students know the legacy of their school and in whose footsteps they are walking today,” says Morgan President David Wilson. “More than being about which school was first in civil rights, I believe it suggests the critical role that college campuses played in the struggle.” History shows that students from Johns Hopkins University, Goucher College, Coppin State Teachers College and other Baltimore area schools joined with the Morgan students to picket, sit in and go to jail during the period.

The pictorial exhibit unveiled today is a display that takes viewers on a history tour of civil rights activism in Baltimore from 1947 – 1963 through photographs and newspaper clippings. The exhibit also includes a model of the lunch counter at the downtown Read’s drug store that features three of the actual stools used by the Morgan students and others who staged sit-ins to end the store’s policy of segregation in 1955.

By the early 1960s, Morgan students had been instrumental in gaining a number of civil rights wins, including the desegregation of Read’s Drug Stores in 1955, Arundel Ice Cream Company in 1959, the Rooftop Restaurant in Northwood Shopping Center in 1960 and Northwood Theater in 1963.

“I hope this display will not just set the historical civil rights record straight but that it will also serve to let others know that Morgan was leading the world even then,” said Dr. Wilson.

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The exhibit is the work of University of Maryland law professor Larry S. Gibson, who donated his collection to Morgan. It will remain on display in the main hall of the University Student Center.