The Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum reopened on June 11, after being closed for twenty years. The newly renovated museum, which is six minutes away from Penn- North where the April uprising took place after the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, is a showcase for African American civil rights history.
Originally opened in 1976, The Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights museum closed in 1996 because of funding woes. For twenty years Jackson’s paraphernalia, awards, and artifacts remained in storage at Morgan State University, until funding was recently provided by the state of Maryland. Morgan State University currently owns and operates the museum as well as The James E. Lewis Museum of Art and Culture, which is also in Baltimore.
Jackson served as president of the Baltimore NAACP for 35 years until her retirement in 1970. She died in 1975 in Baltimore. She was known as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement” because she was an early advocate for racial equality and helped increased the membership of the NAACP throughout her tenure.
The museum, which once served as Jackson’s home for twenty-two years, has three floors of exhibits displaying Jackson’s rise as a civil rights activist and the lasting legacy she had on the community.
On the third floor of the museum, there is an exhibit that focuses on police brutality and Jackson’s daughter’s work as a civil rights activist. Jackson and her daughter, Juanita, started a police training school in Baltimore in 1943 for African-Americans that was designed to increase the number of qualified Black police officers.
“I think the youth will get a chance to see that there were people before them who had the same issues. Maybe they could look at how it was handled then and get some ideas on how some of those similar issues can be handled today,” said Iris Leigh Barnes, curator of The Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum.
The museum houses many recordings of Juanita speaking about the history of the civil rights movement. Many of the recordings, which can be heard in an interactive kiosk, have been transcribed by The Maryland Historical Society.
On the first floor of the museum is the Jackson family tree, which breaks down the life and offspring’s of Jackson, many of whom have served in politics and continue to play a role in the political realm.
When asked what students should remember about the legacy of Jackson, Barnes said, “It’s been a long struggle and it’s an ongoing struggle, and we recognize the early freedom freighters…. who preceded these people that led to their work, and what did they accomplish, and whose shoulders were they standing on? And we, the Martin Luther Kings, are standing on the shoulders of Lillie Carroll Jackson.”
The Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum is located at 1320 Eutaw Place, Baltimore. To schedule a tour of the museum call 443-885-3895.