Thurgood Marshall Receiving NAACP Plaque from Carl Murphy, ca. 1956. Paul Henderson, HEN.00.A2-148.
Before Baltimore native Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993) became the first African American U.S. Supreme Court justice, he was a lawyer directing legal operations for the NAACP from 1940 to 1961. Known for many of his great accomplishments during the struggle for civil rights, his most noted are the Murray v. Pearson (1936) and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954). In the former case, Marshall, along with Charles Hamilton Houston broke the walls of segregation in 1935 when they secured the admission of Donald Gaines Murray to the University of Maryland School of Law, which before then denied admission to African Americans. The former and most well-known Marshall case was a landmark decision that decreed separate public schools for African American and white students was unconstitutional in 1954.
Thurgood Marshall receiving NAACP lifetime membership plaque from Carl Murphy [editor of the Afro-American newspaper]
4 in. x 5 in. acetate negative
Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, HEN.00.A2-148
Maryland Historical Society
NAACP meeting. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.A2-147.
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 fourteen community leaders in 1935 in an effort to revitalize the branch. Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson was one of the fourteen and from then until 1970, she would be president of the Baltimore Branch. The association’s membership in 1965 totaled 440,538 in 1,642 branches throughout the U.S.
NAACP Membership Registration Campaign meeting
4 in. x 5 in. acetate negative
Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, HEN.00.A2-147
Maryland Historical Society
Jackson and Mitchell Family. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.B1-052
This family has contributed a significant amount to the Civil Rights movement and the history of Baltimore. Keiffer Jackson (seated left), traveling church entertainer was husband of Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson (seated far right), President of the Baltimore Branch NAACP from 1935 to 1970. Their daughters Juanita Jackson Mitchell (seated second from left), the first Black woman to practice law in Maryland, and Virginia Jackson Kiah (seated second from right) worked together to create the City-Wide Young People’s Forum. Virginia was also a well-known artist. Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. (standing center), after whom the Baltimore City Courthouse is named, reported for the Afro-American newspaper before moving on to become an NAACP lobbyist in Washington, D.C. [Image: Jackson and Mitchell Family, not dated, Maryland Historical Society, HEN.00.B1-052.]
PHOTOGRAPHS AND AUDIO CLIP: Vernon Dobson speaking about Dr. Lillie May Carroll Jackson (McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project, OH 8131)
Getting back to Dr. Jackson… understand the continuity of history, I would say that the thing that I think makes her leadership important in the Civil Rights Movement in Baltimore is that she made this a religion onto itself, this whole matter of civil rights.
Wherever it was necessary for us to have a spokesman, she was that person. Our spokesperson.
And wherever she felt the necessity for making some kind of appeal for equal rights and justice under the law, she did it.
And many times, at a personal sacrifice.
Largely [?] later on, the NAACP started getting funds from the churches so they were undergirded by church funds and that kind of a thing later on.
Even then, she had to have the personal magnetism and persuasion to get church to give and to support.
I used to always enjoy her coming to a large church meeting and just having her personality take over.
Everybody would… any presiding officer would always use as a measure of his success to preside his ability to keep her down to… limit her to two minutes or three minutes and she would come in with a glimmer in her eye and look at him and say, “Young man,” he could be sixty, seventy years old, “Young man, you just got here. I’ve been in this struggle all these years.”
And then she’d go on to push him aside with a verbal barrage that would just reduce him to nothing and then would go on to make an appeal and it would always last fifteen, twenty minutes.
Gov. McKeldin with Marse Callaway and Carl Murphy. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.B1-069.
Governor Theodore McKeldin (1900–1974), Marse Callaway, and Carl Murphy (1889–1967) were immensely important in the struggle for civil rights. After his first of two terms as Mayor of Baltimore, Republican Gov. McKeldin took office in 1951 until 1959. Promoting racial justice early in his political career, he gained powerful allies in the black community. Callaway served as McKeldin’s political aide, bridging the issues of the black community to Gov. McKeldin. Murphy, editor-publisher of the Afro-American newspaper, helped shape the movement by choosing its leaders, providing funding, and reporting issues to his readers. Image: Governor Theodore McKeldin in his office with Marse Callaway and Carl Murphy in background, Annapolis, 1951, Maryland Historical Society, HEN.00.B1-069
PHOTOGRAPHS AND AUDIO CLIP: Silas Craft, educator and school administrator involved with the Civil Rights movement through the NAACP of Howard and Montgomery Counties, speaks about Governor Theodore McKeldin. (McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project, Maryland Historical Society, OH 8137.)
Oh yes, always impressed with him [inaudible] He attempted to follow various kinds of suggestions as far as I could see, he did a pretty good job at keeping his formal commitments. What else… he annunciated.
As far as I know, I wasn’t on the political circles, political circuit. Still not. But my general observation he was pretty pronounced in his behavior. And he did break barriers in the appointing of blacks to certain administrative posts that never held before in the history of America.
But the state as a whole, from McKeldin [inaudible] governors had a way of shying away from the basic concerns of the black movement and civil rights. Governor after governor did not let themselves become too involved in those areas. Other than to provide some good service.
I would say McKeldin was the forerunner of new thought in this area of race relations from the time I came to this state, to the time that he ended his administration.
Certainly think he did a good job of breaking all… making the trail for change. Of course we know we could go back to when it got rid of the whole Jim Crow law here in the state… came right up to the apartments of blacks to administrative boards in the state [inaudible].
Protesting segregated education and teacher-training programs. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.A2-161
One of the first major battles of the Baltimore Branch NAACP was to champion the cause of many 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 U.S. Prior to desegregation, it was one of only two high schools open to Black students. Parren J. Mitchell, brother of Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., 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. [Image: Protesting segregated education and teacher-training programs, 700-702 Baker Street, Baltimore, July 1948, Maryland Historical Society, HEN.00.A2-161.]
AUDIO CLIP: Parren Mitchell, Maryland’s first Black member of Congress, speaks about his brother, National NAACP lobbyist Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. and his reaction after reporting on the lynching of George Armwood in Princess Anne, Maryland; the City-Wide Young People’s Forum and Thurgood Marshall; picketing at Ford’s Theatre. (McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project, OH 8170)
More photographs of this protest by Paul Henderson:
“I love my brother very much as most people know. And to see him that evening at supper – my family ate all together – to see him not be able to eat because of that…
And the thing that I guess upset me most was that I didn’t know what a lynching was. I was a little child.
Whatever the thing was that had hurt him so badly, the fact that he was hurt, really started sparking my interest in this.
Then years ago, it must’ve been in the late 30s, early 40s… there was something in Baltimore known as the City-Wide Young People’s Forum and I remember my brother Clarence taking me there and I was young… but it was a fascinating experience to see black artists, black educators come and lecture, sing.
Out of that City-Wide Young People’s Forum, if you know, came the first challenge to the segregation of the University of Maryland Law School, the Donald Murray case.
Out of the participants of that Forum was Thurgood Marshall.
A whole host of… new level of leadership came in to the city as a result of that City-Wide Young People’s Forum. Although I was very young at that time, I was old enough to understand exactly what was being said in terms of the discrimination, the racism.
As a result of that, I remember one of my first picketing ventures was at Ford’s Theatre, when at that time black people could only sit in that third balcony.
I remember night after night being there on that picket line. The actual ugliness, the hostility on the part of some of the whites across the picket line or who just annoyed us because we were there… and then the encouragement that came from some of the others.
From that point on, it was just one thing after another. Once you got into it, events were breaking pretty fast.
Protesting Jim Crow admission policy at Ford’s Theater, Baltimore, Maryland. Paul Henderson, 1948. Maryland Historical Society, HEN.00.A2-156.
Ford’s allowed African American actors on stage, but patrons were restricted to an area with poor sight lines known as “the pit.” Black patrons purchased their tickets from the main window and were directed to the alley staircase of the three-story building to reach their seats in the last few rows of the second balcony. The Lyric, in comparison, maintained the opposite policy whereby African Americans were prohibited from the stage, but allowed general seating.
In 1947 Baltimore’s Black community declared that the policies at Ford’s Theater were no longer to be tolerated. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) led a successful protest that would last five years in a city that was much more accustomed to labor-related pickets. The targeted action began with women in key leadership positions, carried out by an interracial group.
The effort was supported by well-known actors and activists of the time period. Renowned actor Paul Robeson headed the cast of Porgy and Bess and threatened to boycott the seating policy, but it is suspected that contractual obligation kept him from doing so. Robeson returned to Baltimore many more times, not to act, but to hold a sign and march outside Ford’s demanding action.
Image information: Protesting Jim Crow admission policy at Ford’s Theater (Paul Robeson, second from left, Dr. E.T. Camper, fourth from left)
314-320 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, Maryland
Paul Samuel Henderson, 1899-1988
Digital reproduction from 4 in. x 5 in. acetate negative
Paul Henderson Photograph Collection, HEN.00.A2-156
Maryland Historical Society
More photographs of the protest at Ford’s Theater by Paul Henderson:
Google Maps Street view of 314 West Fayette Street today:
Labor Committee members of the NAACP. Paul Henderson. MdHS, HEN.00.A1-095
Baltimore AFRO-AMERICAN newspaper, January 1, 1950; pg. 14: Headline: Laying Plans for Use of Skilled Workers on Y Annex
Labor Committee members of the NAACP’s Baltimore Branch discuss the pledge of the YMCA contractors to employ skilled workers on the annex building and map plans to open up skilled jobs on other construction projects. Seated from left are Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr., national NAACP labor secretary; Cecil Scott, C. M. Puryear; D. R. Page; the Revs Thomas Davis, Harrison Bryant; standing, the Rev. Eugene T. Grove; Emerson Brown Jr.; J. Alvin Jones and Raymond A. C. Young. [Image: Labor Committee members of the NAACP, December 1949, Maryland Historical Society, HEN.00.A1-095.]
WARNING. Audio Clip Contains Graphic Information About the Lynching of George Armwood. May Be Disturbing To Some Listeners. Audio Clip: Clarence Mitchell describing what he saw shortly after George Armwood was lynched in Princess Anne, Maryland; Paul Henderson attempting to photograph someone in the area of the lynching; and subsequent intimidation and violent tactics toward African Americans in the community. (McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project, OH 8209)