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Morgan State Exhibit Sheds New Light On The Civil Rights Movement

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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Before the Civil Rights Movement, one local university was at the forefront. Now Morgan State is rewriting the history book.

Gigi Barnett explains.

Fifteen years before the 1960s Civil Rights Movement gripped the nation, Morgan State University students were on the front lines, staging protests and sit-ins. Thursday, the university unveiled a new exhibit, setting the record straight.

“I kept seeing websites and books that talked about the sit-in movement beginning in Greensboro, N.C.,” said Larry Gibson.

Gibson spent years researching the early movement at Morgan State. He says there may be a simple explanation why the history books got it wrong.

“A particular photo of four young men from North Carolina A&T sitting on a Woolworth’s counter got picked up by The Associated Press and went around the country,” said Gibson, who is the curator for the exhibit.

The ceremony included civil rights activists and former students who staged the first lunch-counter sit in, picketed segregated movie theaters and were arrested for the cause. Students say Morgan State was a hotbed of civil rights activity back then.

“It was not that hard to mobilize students, to fight against prejudice because it ran so deep that we had to fight it,” said Walter Dean, a former student at Morgan State University.

“I am so pleased to see the change that has come about, and it came about because of the student attitude,” said Edith Howard-Henry, another former student of the university.

A main feature of the exhibit includes the original lunch counter and stools from Read’s Drug Store. Morgan students staged a sit-in back in January 1955, the store began serving blacks that same month.

The university says this exhibit now cements its place in history and it will remain in the student center permanently.

The exhibit documents Morgan State’s civil rights contribution between 1947 and 1953.

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