Middle School Students Fight To Save Piece Of Civil Rights History

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The movement to save an old Baltimore drugstore had gotten some help.  A group of middle school students is getting involved. 

Gigi Barnett explains they say it’s a chance to save the past and the future.

At the corner of West Lexington and North Howard Streets, there’s a push to preserve the past.  The youngest of the demonstrators are middle-school students.  They’re the latest to join the fight to save Read’s Drugstore, the site of a 1955 civil rights lunch counter sit-in, what some historians call the nation’s first.

“In a way, I feel bad for them because they had to go through all of that stuff, but they made a change,” said Elizabeth Radke, City Neighbors School student.

After the 1955 sit-in, Read’s became integrated and so did other Baltimore restaurants and stores.

“There was just a bunch of us here and we decided that we were going to go in there and sit down and we’re going to get something hot to eat,” said Dr. Helena Hicks, who was there that day.

Now an out-of-town developer wants to raze a block of what was a booming business district, including the old Read’s.  It will make way for a brand new, $150 million project.

“We want it preserved.  We want to say that this is a national monument to civil rights, the first sit-in in the country.  They should be proud of that,” Hicks said.

Peter French’s sixth-grade social studies class at City Neighbors Charter School studied how blacks in Baltimore contributed to the civil rights movement.  Then the students heard about the mission to save Read’s.  French decided to take his history lesson to the streets, so his students would never forget.

“It’s time to save it.  Without this, we’re in trouble,” French said.

Many parents joined in Saturday’s student protest.  Meanwhile, members of the city’s Preservation Committee are considering a request to make Read’s a Baltimore landmark.


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