Skip menu to read main page content
Black Panther Party_Childress
View All exhibitions

Passion and Purpose

Voices of Maryland's Civil Rights Activists

Marylanders have been at the forefront of the national Black freedom struggle, from lawsuits that revealed the lies of the “separate but equal” doctrine in the 1930s and ’40s, to massive protests in the streets during the 1960s that forced a nation to confront its moral consciousness. This legacy continues through today. Visitors to Passion and Purpose learn and draw inspiration from the lived experiences of these activists who make up a complex mosaic of the long and continuing fight for civil rights in Maryland and the nation. This exhibition is on long-term view.

Thurgood Marshall, Nathaniel Kato Gibbs (1948-2018), oil on canvas, 1993. Maryland Center for History and Culture, 2021.48.1

Image Inset: Black Panther Party, photograph by Richard Childress (1939–1984), c.1966–1972. Baltimore, MD. Maryland Center for History and Culture, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Childress Collection, PP177.07

Oral History Collection Unlocked

In Passion and Purpose, 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 into historic moments.

MCHC’s oral history collections—newly preserved and digitized through a grant from the Council of Library and Information Resources—are at the heart of the exhibition. Visitors listen to and read excerpts from dozens of oral history conversations with notable civil rights leaders—many recorded more than 40 years ago—including Juanita Jackson Mitchell, Clarence Mitchell Jr., Rep. Parren Mitchell, Gloria Richardson, Rev. Marion C. Bascom, Esther McCready, Walter Sondheim Jr., Silas Craft Sr., Verda Freeman Welcome, and others. Many of these oral histories are part of the McKeldin-Jackson Project oral history collection.

Passion and Purpose also exhibits recent oral histories about the civil rights movement, including a collection created in the 2000s by Baltimore City high school students who conducted research at MCHC and interviewed people involved in the civil rights movement—the Doris M. Jackson Project oral history collection. The students picked up where the earlier oral histories recorded in the 1970s left off, casting a wider view of the continuing struggle for civil rights. The exhibition also shares oral histories recorded during the 2015 Baltimore Uprising.

Passion and Purpose will serve as an educational tool for students, teachers, and the community about civil rights history. It originated from the growing needs of MCHC’s Education Department to aid teachers and students across Maryland to address civil rights topics in the classroom. Learn about onsite school tours here.

Upcoming programming for Passion and Purpose will seek to add even more voices to MCHC’s oral history collections.

Virtual Exhibition

Browse and listen to the oral histories shared in Passion and Purpose in the exhibition's virtual component. A map also shows the locations around Maryland where civil rights activism took place.

Support for this exhibition is generously provided by*

PNC Bank
Maryland Heritage Areas Authority

Baltimore National Heritage Area
The Charles T. Bauer Foundation
Gallagher Evelius & Jones LLP
Helen Clay Frick Foundation
Sarah and Stan Klinefelter

The Johns Hopkins Neighborhood Fund
LifeBridge Health
Maryland Humanities
Royal Farms
The Wieler Family Foundation

BFPE International
Mr. and Mrs. Ross J. Kelbaugh
Kojak Graphic Communications
Maury Donnelly & Parr Inc.
Miles & Stockbridge
The Pierians, Inc., Baltimore Chapter

*as of May 25, 2022

Your History Lives Here

Since 1844, we have collected, preserved, and interpreted Maryland's diverse history, art, and culture. Visit and see it at the Maryland Center for History and Culture.

Hours & TicketingDirections & AccessibilityFAQs