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Morgan State Reopens Civil Rights Museum

To some, it was a long time coming. But for others, the reopening of the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum in Baltimore this month happened at just the right time.

The museum, which highlights the life and legacy of Jackson, the late civil rights activist and longtime head of Baltimore’s NAACP chapter, had been closed for 20 years, but officially reopened in a June 11 ceremony after a $3 million overhaul.

Larry Jones, a spokesman for Morgan State University, which owns and operates the museum, said the ribbon-cutting ceremony was “an excellent and well-put-together affair” attended by community residents — including former Sen. Michael Mitchell and Keiffer Mitchell of the prominent Mitchell family — civil rights activist Helena Hicks and other local and elected officials.

“There was overwhelming excitement surrounding the event, as many were eager to see and experience the upgrades that had been made to this historic location,” Jones said. “We were very pleased with the event and the community support. It showed a great interest in this piece of Baltimore and Maryland history.”

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Lillie Carroll Jackson, the famed civil rights champion, is celebrated at the June 11 reopening of the Baltimore museum named after her. (Courtesy photo)

Jackson served for more than three decades as president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, with her home a regular meeting place for organizing civil rights campaigns. Prior to her death in 1975, Jackson requested that her home be used as a living museum to honor those individuals that fought bigotry in Baltimore, officials said.

The state legislature transferred the property to Morgan State in June 1996 and the museum, one of two owned and operated by the school, had remained closed due to the need for extensive repairs and renovations. 

“Dr. Jackson’s participation in Baltimore’s civil rights movement was vital to initiating significant change and we’re proud to share that history with the world, introducing her contributions to a new generation of museum-goers,” said Morgan State President David Wilson. “With the reopening of this important piece of civil rights history, we are able to further expand Morgan’s educational offerings on the movement and create a place that offers a unique learning experience.”

The museum, located a short distance from the Morgan campus in Baltimore’s Bolton Hill community, services the university’s museum studies program and houses two period rooms along with six galleries of exhibits throughout the converted four-story row home.

When visitors enter, they’re greeted by a large sign that reads “A Man Was Lynched Yesterday,” in reference to the display at New York’s NAACP headquarters in the 1930s. Also among the eye-catching exhibits is an encased newspaper article that shows a photo of George Armwood, the last African-American man killed by a lynch mob in Maryland in 1933.

Included among the exhibits are drawings, paintings, letters, photographs and historic documents related to the civil rights movement.

“Of the hundreds who were on hand to witness and celebrate the occasion, many seemed to have a personal connection to the history portrayed in the museum or the family that used to occupy the space,” Jones said. “As family members toured the facility each encounter with an object, picture or setting seemed to generate a fond memory that they wanted to share. And then there was the look on the faces of several people, young and old, who were seeing the museum for the first time.”

The museum’s new and otherwise enhanced features include a separate garage structure converted into a resource center for scholars, digital-friendly systems and technological upgrades, an elevator and rehabilitated structural and architectural components.

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