After several years of planning, fundraising and renovation, the restored Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum will be once again open to the public later this year or early next year, said Gabriel Tenabe, director of the Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum.
“The renovation is almost complete . . . we hope to open it in the next nine months,” Tenabe said.
The building, which is located at 1320 Eutaw Place in the Bolton Hill neighborhood in Baltimore, was the home of the woman who has been hailed as the “mother of the civil rights movement” for her last 22 years. She stated in her will that she wanted her home to be converted into a civil rights museum. The museum opened to the public in 1976, a year after Jackson’s death. The home is now in the custody of Morgan State University, which has spearheaded the home’s restoration. Renovation started in the spring of 2010 and was necessary to restore the building’s structural integrity.
Jackson was essential to the civil rights movement in several ways. According to the Maryland Historical Society’s biography of her, she led the Baltimore Chapter of the NAACP between 1935-1970, a critical era for blacks to secure both civil and economic equality with whites. It was Jackson who established the use of nonviolent resistance and action of the 1960s. The society’s biography also states she ran the 1931“Buy Where You Can Work” campaign in which blacks boycotted businesses who engaged in racist employment practices, secured equal pay for black teachers with white teachers in public schools in 1938 and registered black voters in 1942. In addition, Jackson was instrumental in breaking the color barrier at the University of Maryland’s School of Law in 1953 and in passing a law to ensure fair employment practices in Baltimore in 1958. The society’s biography also states she worked to desegregate public recreational and educational facilities. Finally, she was the mother of Juanita Jackson Mitchell, who was a leader in the fight against segregation laws in Maryland and the mother-in-law of Clarence Mitchell, Jr., who was the director of the NAACP’s Washington bureau between 1950-1978.
While the museum is named after Jackson, Tenabe said the museum will commemorate many key events and figures of the civil rights movement. For example, Tenabe said that the sit-ins of the movement are often thought to have originated in North Carolina, but it was Morgan State University students who started this form of civil disobedience after being denied the opportunity to eat in the whites-only cafeteria at Read’s Drug Store at Lexington and Howard streets on a cold, rainy day in 1952. This event led to sit-ins at drug stores throughout the city, and it was a Morgan State University student who then taught civil rights activists in North Carolina this method of protest. When these protestors were jailed, Jackson was one of the people who raised money to bail them out. Jackson also collected funds so that civil rights activists could wage court battles to fight unjust laws designed to keep blacks as second-class citizens.
“The Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum is not only important for Baltimore, but for the nation in general because Maryland fought the good fight for the civil rights movement,” Tenabe said.
One example of another figure who will be featured when the museum is reopened is Margaret Carey, a white Quaker who fought side-by-side with Jackson against lynching. Tenabe said the Quakers welcomed Jackson into their fold and together they fought hard to secure equal rights for blacks.
Tenabe said the museum’s exhibits are being created while renovation is being completed, but that anyone who has civil rights memorabilia should contact him at Morgan State University’s Office of Museums at 443-885-3333, extension 3548. For those who wish to make financial contributions to the museum, donations should be sent to the Morgan State University Foundation with a notation in the memo section that the money is to be given to the Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum.