Capturing the Movement: Before and After the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in Photographs
Fifty years ago this week the Civil Rights Act of 1964 voided all discriminatory laws (de jure segregation) in the public arena. It went a step further than each of its predecessors of 1866, 1871, 1875, 1957 and 1960 by outlawing racial segregation in schools, the workplace, and other public spaces. Considered the most important act in its lineage, ponder for a moment the fact that America, land of the free, required at least five more acts of congress to even begin moving toward equality for all. For those keeping score at home, there was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and Civil Rights bills passed in 1968 (Fair Housing), 1987 (featuring an override of President Reagan’s veto), 1990 (job discrimination), and 1991 (right to trial by jury in discrimination cases).
It’s important to remember and celebrate this important legislation. But equally important is to remember the struggle that led to it, the people behind the scenes, and what came after. To commemorate this anniversary, we’ve selected photographs from three MdHS collections (Paul Henderson, Richard Childress, and Theodore McKeldin) that highlight the struggle, high and low points, and remind us of what it means to be human.
The protest of Ford’s Theatre (pictured above), which began in 1946 because it required African-Americans to sit in the balcony, lasted seven years and ultimately succeeded. Many of the popular plays during this time bypassed Baltimore because producers and actors would not abide by the theater’s segregation policy. Others, such as actor/opera singer Paul Robeson (second from left), came to Baltimore specifically to protest. The Ford’s demonstrations were led by the Jackson and Mitchell families, NAACP, and Interracial Fellowship Youth (with A. Robert Kauffman as president, possibly fifth from left) and benefited from celebrity power from the likes of Robeson and Bayard Rustin. In 1953, Governor Theodore McKeldin, who served terms as Mayor (of Baltimore) before and after he held the office of governor, received the Hollander Foundation Award for his leadership and particularly for his help in integrating Ford’s Theatre. (1)
Founded in 1912, the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP is the second oldest in the country. In response to legal segregation in education, housing, and employment, Dr. Carl Murphy, editor of the Afro-American newspaper, called a meeting with 14 community leaders in 1935 in an effort to revitalize the branch. Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson was one of those present. At the meeting she was elected president of the Baltimore Branch NAACP, a position she held until retiring in 1970.
One of the first major battles of the Baltimore Branch NAACP was to champion the cause of black teachers in public schools who received lesser salaries than their white counterparts. The NAACP fought for equal pay, equal facilities for learning, and equal teacher-training programs. The backdrop of this particular protest, Frederick Douglass High School, was established in 1883 as the Colored High and Training School and is the second oldest historically integrated high school in the country. Prior to desegregation, it was one of only two high schools (in Baltimore) open to black students. Parren J. Mitchell, seen here at far left, graduated from Douglass High School in 1940 and in 1970 went on to become Maryland’s first black member of Congress.
Despite being fully qualified academically, Esther McCready (below, third from left) was denied admission to the University of Maryland School of Nursing solely because of the color of her skin. Seen here with NAACP attorneys, Thurgood Marshall (fourth from left) and Donald Gaines Murray (second from right), McCready sued the university for admission based on the argument that she was not provided “equal protection under the law” (McCready v. Byrd, 1949) and was forced to pursue her education out-of-state where blacks were accepted while her white counterparts were being trained in state. On April 14, 1950, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in McCready’s favor. Marshall and Murray rolled McCready’s case into a series of test cases. Also pictured below are Hiram Whittle, who sought to enroll as an undergraduate in the College of Engineering, and future Congressman Parren Mitchell who sought to enter a graduate sociology program. By 1951 all had won their respective cases. (2)In 1948, Governor William Preston Lane Jr., seated second from right, appointed nine African-Americans to the Board of Trustees for Cheltenham School for Boys after the entire board resigned. The long-troubled correctional institution for young black males was in dire straits and often criticized as a penal work farm rather than training school when the new board took over. Members of particular note were Willard W. Allen (seated far left), president of Southern Life Insurance Company and Grand Worshipful Master of the Free and Accepted Masons, and Violet Hill Whyte (seated second from left), the first black policewoman in Baltimore. By the time she retired in 1967, Whyte had reached the rank of lieutenant. (3)
Richard (Dick) Childress Photograph Collection
Baltimore Sun photographer Dick Childress finds members of Baltimore CORE smoking and chatting on a sidewalk, possibly during a demonstration. While we don’t know the exact date and most of the men are not identified in this picture, the two men in the center are Walter Samuel Brooks (left), Baltimore CORE director, and Daniel Gant (right).
Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, voting rights advocate and Civil Rights leader, speaking at a Baltimore area CORE meeting. The date and location were not recorded by the photographer.
WJZ-TV channel 13 was on the scene. But when and where? Stokely Carmichael, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, loosens his tie while speaking at a Baltimore CORE Convention—date unknown, but possibly the same day that Hamer spoke. In January 1967, Carmichael made appearances at Metropolitan Methodist Church and Morgan State. According to the late Sun columnist Gregory Kane, Carmichael also spoke in Baltimore in 1970. More information is needed.
Below a CORE member watches infamous white supremacist and failed gubernatorial candidate, Charles J. Luthardt protest a CORE event. The smile on his face indicates that he is familiar with this protester’s brand of idiocy. Glen Burnie resident, Luthardt often visited the neighborhoods surrounding Patterson Park in his truck equipped with loudspeakers that he used to spout hate speech and play racist records which he also sold. He was the chairman of the Fighting American Nationalists, but at these impromptu rallies his audience often consisted of Baltimore teenagers gathering around his truck. He believed the city was in the midst of a race war and in 1966 ran for Governor on a platform of issuing guns to all white citizens at the state’s expense. (4)
The reference picture below is very likely from the summer of 1967. Despite the fact that Childress failed to record either a date or location, it’s probably an accurate representation of the Patterson Park teenagers Charles Luthartd played to from his truck. Patterson Park was a hot bed of white supremacist activity, particularly in 1966 and ’67. According to author Antero Pietilla, “Nazi Swastika flags were flying on Eastern Avenue, toward Broadway from the park, where the Baltimore Nationalist Socialist Party had its headquarters.” Among other national tensions, a lifeguard strike for better pay in August 1967 closed certain city pools. But lifeguards only went on strike at pools located in black neighborhoods, leaving pools such as Riverside Park between Federal Hill and Locust Point and Roosevelt Park in Hampden open for business to its white residents. Not surprisingly black teenagers sought to assert their rights guaranteed by the ’64 Civil Rights Act.(5) They were met by crowds of hostile white teenagers who shouted racial epithets. In Hampden rabid white teens chased and trapped a group of black teens in the locker room until police arrived to free them. Here we have proof that racism is learned, even as other subjects fall by the wayside.Theodore R. McKeldin Photograph Collection/ Nat Lipsitz photographer
Persistent politician and Sydney Hollander Award winner Mayor (former Governor) Theodore McKeldin was highly regarded as an advocate for civil rights for African-Americans. It’s interesting to ponder his inner thoughts when caught in the lifeguard strike a year after the photo below was taken. Mrs. Jennie Gaines, homeowner, 515 North Carey Street (Harlem Park neighborhood) was the first person to receive a Federal Rehabilitation grant in the Mid-Atlantic region. Gaines was a 69 year-old widower who inherited her house from her mother and lived on Social Security. She used the grant to improve her home. McKeldin is seen delivering her award and holding a copy of his 1964 MdHS-published book, No Mean City. (6)
Mayor Theodore McKeldin greets A. Philip Randolph at a White House conference on Civil Rights in 1966. Randolph was a union organizer, radical publisher, and strong believer in collective activism as a means for African-Americans to gain full equality. Together with Bayard Rustin and A. J. Muste, he organized a proposed march on Washington that pressured President Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 (Fair Employment Act, 1941) which banned racial discrimination in war industries. In 1948 when President Truman needed black support to win reelection, Randolph urged him to issue Executive Order 9981 that desegregated the military.
After receiving “the treatment” from his close friend President Lyndon Baines Johnson, frequent White House visitor Whitney Young is greeted warmly by Mayor McKeldin who may have come bearing gifts according to this photo. Young is best known as the Executive Director of the National Urban League and is credited with transforming it from a relatively moderate organization to one that fought aggressively for economic opportunities for African-Americans. He also left an amazing legacy in the field of social work. (Joe Tropea and Jennifer A. Ferretti)
A note about the collections
Two of the three collections sampled above are still works-in-progress at MdHS. While the Paul Henderson Collection has received much recent attention from volunteers, interns, staff, and the public, there is still much work to be done. Names, dates, and locations remain undetermined in many of his photographs. The same can be said of Richard Childress’s work. In many cases Childress identified his subjects, but failed to record specific dates or locations. The Special Collections and Imaging Services Departments invite the public to visit the F. Furlong Baldwin Library and view these collections. We welcome your thoughts and factual details in the comments section or email us at imagingservices[at]mdhs[dot]org.
Many thanks to Dr. Philip Merrill, Antero Pietilla, and Bill Zorzi for their help and incites on these photographs.
1. C. Fraser Smith, Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland; AFRO-American, February 19, 1949.
2. “Trailblazers: Integration at the University of Maryland – Part 2.” Subjects in photograph identified by Esther McCready on June 27, 2014.
3. “Kiah Rejected for Top Job at Chelthenham,” The Baltimore Sun, February 27, 1948: 32; “‘Lady Law’ Did More Than Just Her Duty,” The Baltimore Sun, February 2, 1997.
4. Richard Hardesty, “‘[A] veil of voodoo’: George P. Mahoney, Open Housing, and the 1966 Governor’s Race,” Maryland Historical Magazine, Summer 2009; “Racist Rally Is Broken Up; 2 Arrested,” The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 6, 1967:24.
5. Antero Pietilla via email; “Pay Increase To Reopen 4 Closed Pools,” The Baltimore Sun, Aug. 9, 1967:C24.
6. “Housing Grant Is Awarded,” The Baltimore Sun, Sunday, Jan. 23, 1966: F2.