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Morgan State students played prominent Civil Rights role with sit-down protests

Morgan State students played prominent Civil Rights role with sit-down protests
Morgan State students played prominent Civil Rights role with sit-down protests 02:23

BALTIMORE -- Morgan State University students played a major role in the Civil Rights movement nearly 70 years ago.

Students took part in life-changing sit-down protests at the Northwood Shopping Center. 

"That is what they chose to do, to sit down and be seen, and sit down and be served and sit down and demand change," Baltimore historian Ida Jones told WJZ.

In 1955, the Read's Drugstore in Northwood Shopping Center became the site of one of the country's first anti-segregation sit-ins, or sit downs, as they called them.


"The sit-down campaign throughout Baltimore City does predate Greensboro, North Carolina, but it is a kind of a whole chorus of dissent of a generation of students who are not going to tolerate that behavior," Jones said.

Students at Morgan State University led the charge, demanding equality, that they be serviced just as their white counterparts. 

"They didn't just take the bum's rush and get pushed out the door, they physically sat down, did their homework, physically sat down and made attempts to order, and physically sat down in space as they were not welcomed in," Jones said. "(They) using their physical presence to clog up or how to occupy the space."

Teachers encouraged students to be the change.

"Her faculty told her if she didn't participate, she would fail the class," Jones said. "So she held the plaque card in front of her face. It says, 'those hands, that's me, but you won't see my face because my parents would have been appalled, but I wanted to pass the class.'"


The sit-in prompted Reads Drugstore to desegregate at all 39 of its locations throughout Baltimore. 

Current students reacted to this historic moment in history.

"It is wild to know that you can't even go down the street and get what you need, yet you attend a university here," student London Blackwell said.

The sit-downs sparked more successful protests like those at Arundel Ice Cream in 1959, and Norwood Theater in 1963. 

"I am Black history because they are Black history," Morgan State student Tyler Hairston. "They paved the way for me so i have no choice but to pave the way for the future generations coming behind me."

It's because of these trailblazers that students have the privileges of today and the confidence to fight for what they believe in. 

"You see so many young people fighting for their rights standing up for what they believe in and not being afraid to use their voice to speak out on the issues that we continue to face as a society," Morgan State student Raven Fernandes said.

In passing the torch, Morgan State students said they will continue the fight for racial equality.

The Northwood Plaza has also just been remodeled, and developers are making sure minority business owners have a seat at the table. 

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