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Partners of the Heart
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Vivien's Baltimore: Activism

  Coming to Baltimore | Arts & Culture | Church and Community Life
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Glaring inequalities, health hazards, and the indignities of segregation moved black residents to call for change. Baltimore experienced activism for civil rights as early as the 1930s.

Leaders in these efforts included Carl Murphy, who edited the Afro-American newspaper, which articulated the black community's needs and goals. Lillie Carroll Jackson, head of the Baltimore NAACP, was another powerful force for change. Together, Jackson and Murphy launched challenges to segregation in the 1930s.

One of the first was a campaign against merchants in black communities who refused to hire blacks. In 1933, the "Don't Buy Where You Can't Work" campaign resulted in grocery stores hiring 42 black clerks.

The paper fought for equal salaries with the NAACP. The NAACP with Lillie May Jackson became a really powerful force in Baltimore both in politics and in social justice. One of the things that we were particularly proud of was when we were able to get black clerks and cashiers and tellers in Maryland National Bank, which was then Calvert Bank.
-- John Murphy, former president, Afro-American, on the newspaper's activism

When the city law dictating segregated neighborhoods was changed in the 1950s, black families began to move into white neighborhoods. Home-buying came to be seen as a form of activism, and another step in Black Baltimore's progressive history.

In moving from Fulton Avenue -- moving further into West Baltimore -- there was a thing going on with discrimination, laws changing and what have you. Once you move into a block, or break the block, as we called it back then, you had white flight, you know, because the white community felt that as soon as a Negro moved in, the neighborhood was going to go down. So up went the signs and out went the people. We experienced that a couple of times. But the neighborhoods didn't crash. In fact, they're still there, most of them. Of course over time things change for everybody. Neighborhoods do change, people change, but the value didn't go totally down and the neighborhoods didn't go apart.
-- William "Dewey" Parrish on how neighborhoods finally changed



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