The struggle for Black civil rights in Maryland was and continues to be a powerful movement made up of everyday people. While some activists gained prominence for their actions and leadership, most were ordinary people who experienced continual and generational discrimination and wanted change. These men and women, students and adults, used their voices to tear down the “separate but equal” doctrine, fight in the courtrooms and on the picket lines, and push Marylanders to the forefront of the civil rights movement. Just as their voices fought for equality, their oral histories retell the tension, frustration, and determination in moments that shaped the Black freedom struggle in Maryland and beyond. The voices for change still fight for justice today through the next generation of Maryland activists.

To learn more about the onsite exhibition, please visit us here.

Oral History Collections

Many of the oral histories you will find in this virtual component are from two collections: the McKeldin-Jackson Project (1970–1975) and the Doris M. Johnson Project (2006–2007). Due to the nature and age of the recordings, some audio may be lost or unintelligible, causing gaps in the transcripts.

What is Activism? 

What does activism mean to you? The word “activism” may call to mind recent visible protests, marches, picket lines, and online campaigns. Activism comes in many forms. Throughout the civil rights movement, activists used various strategies and mediums to advance racial equality. Some forms of activism, such as demonstrations, protests, and strikes, were direct actions intended to be visible, photographed, and draw a lot of attention. Other equally significant forms of activism included legislation, letter-writing campaigns, boycotts, and private meetings to pressure those in power for change. Activism can also take the form of photography, documentation, music, and artwork. In the modern era, technological advancements allowed a new form of activism to emerge. Today, social media campaigns and their global reach help activists from all over the nation and world to fight together for equality.