African-American History

This category contains 13 posts

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, [...]

Judge Simon Sobeloff – Moderate to the Extreme

In his home town of Baltimore Judge Simon Sobeloff (1894-1973) was known as a man of principle and conscience. Though a Republican himself, he had strong relationships with party members on each side of the aisle, including mayors Theodore McKeldin(R) and Thomas D’Alesandro Jr(D). As his grandson Michael S. Mayer put it, “[he believed that] [...]

A Thorny Path: School Desegregation in Baltimore

May 17, 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Brown vs. Board of Education. Activism in Baltimore and throughout the state of Maryland had been building toward a case for integrated public education for many years prior to the decision. Maryland has almost always occupied an ambivalent position on racial matters. [...]

The Dreams of Benjamin Banneker

Over the 200 years since the death of Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), his story has become a muddled combination of fact, inference, misinformation, hyperbole, and legend. Like many other figures throughout history, the small amount of surviving source material has nurtured the development of a degree of mythology surrounding his story. While myths make for great [...]

Return of the Whipping Post: Mining the Museum

(This is the second part of a two part series – The first part of the story was posted on October 3, 2013 and can be read here.) When a museum acquires an artifact, it often goes directly into some dark storage area never to see the light of day again. This was the case [...]

Sunday Best: a volunteer reflects on photo crowdsourcing

Last week the Maryland Historical Society opened a satellite photograph exhibit, “Paul Henderson: Maryland’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs,” at Baltimore’s City Hall. The show marks our latest efforts to identify the people and locations in the Henderson Photograph Collection. Earlier this year, MdHS hosted an event to kickstart this process. The following is a reflection [...]

Morris A. Soper Papers – Coming Soon! (or 25 years late…)

Several months ago while pulling a collection from our sub-basement, or coal cellar, under the south end of the Keyser building here at MdHS,  I became intrigued by a box labeled Soper Papers. Most curious were the words “Don’t catalog until 3/88” scrawled on it. Being quite familiar with the fact that most archives—including MdHS—have [...]

Everyday People: Paul Henderson Collection Goes to City Hall

  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks here in the Imaging Services Department at MdHS. Through some wild confluence of ambition and scheduling, I agreed to curate and deliver a 48-piece photography exhibition the very week of the debut of my new documentary, HIT & STAY, at the Maryland Film Festival. I can’t really [...]

Lost City: The Regent Theater

The theaters, night clubs, and restaurants that once made Pennsylvania Avenue Baltimore’s center for African-American entertainment  are today a receding memory. In the segregated Baltimore of the early to mid twentieth century, the Avenue was where African-Americans went to see the latest films, have a drink at one of the many nightclubs and bars, and hear [...]

Paul Henderson Collection: Who or Where?

The Paul Henderson Photograph Collection contains over 6,000 photographs of mostly unidentified African Americans from ca. 1935-1965. When the Paul Henderson: Baltimore’s Civil Rights Era in Photographs, ca. 1940-1960 exhibition opened in 2012, several people from the media asked why it was important for MdHS to identify the people Henderson photographed in and around Baltimore. If you’ve ever [...]