Events and Initiatives


In the Footstep of Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson: Her Work/Our Work 

A Civil Rights Symposium to Commemorate the Opening of the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum, Morgan State University

April 21, 2016

Convened for the purpose of honoring and understanding the civil rights leadership and activistism of Dr. Lillie Carroll Jackson in the face of insidious racial discrimination and prevailing segegation in the State of Maryland and nationally and to consider how the challenges and work of her day have become the challenges and work of our day in the long, bloody struggle for civil rights, racial justice and equal opportunity for all people.

The Conversion Immigration, Education and Civil Rights:

Spring, 2016

Speaker: Linda Noel, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, Morgan State University
Author of Debating America Identity: Southwestern Statehood and Mexican Immigration

The State of Black Baltimore: A Community Conversation
Fall, 2016
Speakers: TBD


UNFINISHED BUSINESS: A National Dialogue on Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the 21st Century and Comparability and Competitiveness: Civil Rights and Equal Educational Opportunity in the Adams States (November 12-13, 2009)

The quest for equal educational opportunity is reflected in a number of important court cases, including Brown v. Board of Education, Adams v. Richardson and United States v. Fordice. HBCUs have played a central role in the Adams and Fordice cases as the courts sought to define the meaning of equal opportunity, particularly in the context of higher education. Maryland was on of a number of states identified in the Adams case as operating dual systems of higher education, one for white students and another for black students. Morgan State University, as well as other HBCUs in Maryland and in the other Adams states, has in the ensuing decades since the Adams decision, sought the promise of parity outlined by the courts. The conference was convened to identify, examine and discuss the significant legal, legislative, economic and social factors that impacted Morgan's experience and outlined continuing and future challenges to the promise of parity for HBCUs.

Presidential Round Table: The Unfinished Business of Parity in the Adams States: The Promise and the Perils. In this session, presidents of HBCUs and major civil rights advocates discussed the impact of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Adams, Fordice and other applicable state and federal obligations on their universities and the unmet challenges to overcome in the pursuit of equal educational opportunity for their students and parity for their institutions. Panelists included Lezli Baskerville, President of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (moderator), Julius L. Chambers, Former Chancellor, North Carolina Central University, Dr. Mary Evans Sias, President, Kentucky State University, Dr. H. Patrick Swygert, Former President, Howard University, Dr. Frederick S. Humphries, Former President, Florida A&M University, Dr. Earl S. Richardson, President, Morgan State University and Mr. John J. Oliver, CEO, President and Publisher, The Afro American Newspaper.

Keynote Address: Hell and High Water at HBCUs, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, University Professor, Georgetown University. Discussion Facilitator: Mr. LaFontaine Oliver, General Manager, WEAA Radio, and Producer of the Michael Eric Dyson Show.

Dialogue of the Bar: Comparability and Competitiveness after Fordice. This session examined the desegregation and equal educational opportunity obligations of the states under federal law, particularly addressing (1) compliance with standards necessary to ensure that HBCUs are comparable to and competitive with Traditionally White Institutions in all facets of the operations and programs, (2) affirmative measures necessary to eliminate and remedy and continuing policies or practices that foster discrimination or perpetuate segregated conditions indicative of the former dual systems of higher education, and (3) necessary and appropriate enhancement of HBCUs. Panelists included Pace J. McConkie (facilitator), Theodore M. Shaw, Columbia University School of Law and Former President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., Tricia Jefferson, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and Raymond C. Pierce, Dean, North Carolina Central University School of Law, Former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, United States Department of Education.

NAMING CEREMONY: Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education (April 28, 2010)

Chief Judge Robert M. Bell was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina on July 6, 1943, and reared in Baltimore. He attended Dunbar High School where, in 1960, twelve Dunbar High School students entered a downtown Baltimore restaurant, were refused service and were subsequently arrested and convicted for trespassing. One of the students, Robert M. Bell, led an appeal of the verdict in a landmark civil rights case, Bell v. Maryland, which eventually was argued before the United States Supreme Court and brought an end to de facto racial segregation in Maryland. Judge Bell continued his education at Morgan State College, where he received his B.A. degree in 1966. He then went to Harvard University Law School, where he received his J.D. in 1969.

Thus began his historic odyssey through Maryland's legal system, first as an attorney at the firm of Piper and Marbury, then as a judge with 25 years of service on the Maryland bench. Judge Bell came to the bench in 1975 as a judge of the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City. He next served as a judge for the Circuit Court for Baltimore City from 1980 to 1984, when he was appointed judge to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland. In 1991, Judge Bell was appointed to the Court of Appeals of Maryland. With his October 23, 1996 designation by Governor Parris Glendening as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals, the State's highest court, Judge Bell became the only active judge in the State to have served at least four years on all four levels of Maryland's judiciary, and the first African American to be named the State's chief jurist.

Remarks: Mr. Pace J. McConkie, Director
Remarks: Mr. Dallas R. Evans, Chairman, Morgan State University of Board of Regents
Reflections of Colleagues: Mr. William H. Murphy, Jr., Esq.; Professor Larry S. Gibson
Reading of Resolution: Mr. Pace J. McConkie, Director
Dedicatory Remarks: Dr. Earl S. Richardson, President
Response: The Honorable Robert M. Bell

CARRY THE TORCH: Continuing Morgan's Legacy of Civil Rights and Equal Justice

Convened on November 9-10, 2011, for the purpose of (1) honoring the Morgan State University Alumni who, as student activists, initiated the civil disobedience of the 1950s and 1960s through organized sit-ins and other civil rights demonstrations at local lunch counters, theaters and department stores to protest and dismantle racial segregation in public accommodations, (2) unveiling a permanent civil rights exhibit in the University Student Center documenting the activities of the courageous students, and (3) empowering the next generation of students and alumni who must no carry the torch and continue the legacy of civil rights and equal justice in the face of today's challenges. The symposium and unveiling was the culmination of a collaborative effort initiated in April 2010 by the Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education and Professor Larry S. Gibson of the University of Maryland School of Law.

Panel: The Voices of Our Forbearers. This panel discussion articulated the viewpoints and experiences of representatives of Morgan alumni who participated in the organized sit-ins and civil rights demonstrations. They discussed their direct response to the civil rights challenges they faced as students and their valiant efforts to dismantle segregation in public accommodations and overcome the pernicious racial discrimination and segregation that prevailed under Jim Crow and other discriminatory policies and practices. Panelists included Professor Larry S. Gibson (moderator) and alumni Mary Elaine Blackwell, Walter R. Dean, Jr., Wilhelmina Dolores Goff, Clarence Logan and Julia Davidson Randall.

Panel: The Voices Who Now Carry the Torch and Continue the Legacy in a Rising Generation. This panel discussion represented the viewpoints, strategies and actions of current students, recent alumni and young advocates and activists who are rising up to the challenge and overcoming the continuing and contemporary civil rights issues that we now face, including equal educational opportunity, employment and labor practices, voting rights and political empowerment, racial profiling, the criminal justice system, and the necessity of building multi-ethnic coalitions to fight and win the battles for civil rights and equal justice. Panelists included Pace J. McConkie (moderator), students Raiana Davis, Antonio Holloman, and Lydia Walther-Rodriguez, and recent graduates Stanton Johnson, and Zenia Wilson.

The Founders Day Convocation, featuring Congressman John Lewis of Georgia,

The Morgan Student Civil Rights exhibition  

DREAM.ACT.VOTE: Dream to Act - Act on Your Dreams - Secure Your Vote
A 2012 Election Year Symposium

Convened on October 9, 2012, for the purpose of (1) understanding, securing and exercising the power of the vote as an essential means to advance equal educational opportunity for all students regardless of race, color and ethnicity and to further dismantle continuing policies and practices that foster discrimination and inequitable conditions in education, (2) supporting and advancing educational initiatives that open the doors of opportunity for all students of color, including African, African Caribbean and Latino students in our communities, and (3) overcoming the pernicious impact of voter suppression efforts on racial and ethnic minorities, college students, the elderly and low-income citizens who claim and attempt to exercise the right to vote on November 6th.

Special Film Presentation: Mendez v. Westminster: Para Todos los Ninos (For All the Children). This recent Emmy Award winning film relates the first-hand experiences of the multi-racial effort to desegregate public schools and advance equal educational opportunity in Orange County California in the landmark Mendez v. Westminster Unified School District case of 1946-47. The case, litigated on behalf of the children of migrant Mexican and Mexican American farm workers, was carefully crafted, monitored and joined on appeal by the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., represented by Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter, and served as the precedent and legal foundation for Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, et al., crumbling the unequal and unconstitutional pillars of racial segregation in public education.

Panel: Advancing Equal Educational Opportunity through the DREAM Act. This panel discussion defined and examined the Maryland DREAM Act, and the ballot initiative that would uphold or defeat it, as a means for advancing equal educational opportunity for students of color, facilitated understanding of its purposes as both a civil rights and education initiative, addressed the prevailing myths and misconceptions about the Act, and considered comparable federal initiatives being implemented or proposed nationally to secure education opportunity for students regardless of race or color and ethnicity. Panelists included Elizabeth Alex of Casa de Maryland (moderator), Senator Joan Carter Conway, and students Lydia Walther Rodriguez, Cindy Kolade, Sarita Santillan, and Amal L. Jones.

Keynote Address: Securing and Exercising the Power of the Vote, Mr. Victor Goode, NAACP Assistant General Counsel, National NAACP Legal Department.

Panel: Overcoming Voter Suppression and Securing the Right to Vote. This panel discussion identified and examined present-day efforts and newly enacted laws designed to disenfranchise racial and ethnic minorities, college students, the elderly and low-income citizens who pursue the right to vote on election day, and further addressed the steps, education and activism necessary to rise up in the face of voter suppression efforts and participate in democracy at the ballot box. Panelist included Pace J. McConkie (moderator) and Dr. Raymond Winbush, Tessa Hill-Aston, President of the Baltimore Branch NAACP, Dr. Marvin L. ‘Doc' Cheatham of the National Action Network, and student Anissa Caldwell.

The 50th Anniversary Celebration (April 24, 2013)

Convened for the purpose of commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the desegregation of Gwynn Oak Amusement Park and understanding the collaborative effort of people of good will, including African Americans, Whites, Baptists, Catholics, Jews and Gentiles in an effort to dismantle racial prejudices, segregation and exclusion in public accommodations during the racially charged era of 1960s Baltimore. This program is a collaborative effort between filmmakers Pete and Beverly O'Neal and the Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education.

Introduction and Civil Rights Overview: Pace J. McConkie, Director

World Premier: All the King's Horses: The Story of Gwynn Oak Amusement Park

This documentary chronicles the efforts of many ordinary, everyday people to desegregate the privately-owned recreation facility during Maryland's racially charged and turbulent civil rights era. Buried in the memories of old timers and elder statesmen, the images of the opening of the park to African Americans are unknown to many. While the Civil Rights Movement is typically referenced in relation to events that happened in Deep South Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, battles also were waged here in Maryland. The year 1963 was a restless time in the State, from Baltimore, where Morgan State College students staged protests at the Northwood Shopping Center's movie theater and lunch counters, to the bucolic Eastern Shore town of Cambridge, where racial unrest erupted.

African Americans were not alone in the struggle. They marched side by side with Whites and Jews, priests, rabbis, ministers, businessmen, teachers and students. Many of these unlikely protesters were not the targets of discrimination. Yet they left their comfortable homes, businesses and busy lives to join the fight for freedom; they were jeered, spat upon and even beaten. This documentary attempts to capture the essence of not only their struggle, but also their motivation to be engaged in the fight. Pete and Beverly O'Neal have amassed more than 15 hours of eyewitness accounts and personal narratives from those involved in the desegregation of the park. All sides are included, those where allowed in to those who were not. Original photographs are from the Baltimore Afro-American and the now defunct News American Newspapers, newly uncovered film footage and artifacts stored in garages.

Panel: Remembering the Fight to Desegregate Gwynn Oak Amusement Park and What it Means for Us Today. This panel discussion defined and examined the desegregation of the park. The panel was comprised of representatives who led and otherwise participated in the desegregation protests and activities in 1963, addressing the significance of these historic activities in dismantling segregation in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Panelist included Ms. Reva Lewie, Mr. Charles Mason, Mr. John Roemer, Mr. Gilbert Sandler and Ms. Lydia Wilkins. The discussion was introduced by Ms. Simone Barrett of the Robert M. Bell Center for Civil Rights in Education and moderated by Dr. Edwin T. Johnson, Interim Dean, College of Liberal Arts, Morgan State University. Civil Rights Initiatives & Collaborations

National Coalition on School Diversity

On May 17, 2012, the Center joined the National Coalition on School Diversity in order to advance the educational and social benefits of diversity in elementary, secondary and higher education in a unique coalition of educators, social scientists, university-based researchers and civil rights advocacy groups. It participated in a national conference on school diversity at the Georgetown University Law Center entitled "Advancing the Legacy of Mendez and Brown. As a part of the Coalition, the Center is working to expand support for government policies that support school diversity and reduce racial isolation.

Mendez to Brown Project

One direct result of participation in the national conference on school diversity is the Center's entering into a partnership with Ms. Sandra Robbie of Chapman University in a historic effort to document and teach the link between the landmark Mendez v. Westminster Unified School District and Brown v. Board of Education cases in this nation's long struggle to end racial and ethnic segregation in public schools. See "Dream.Act.Vote" symposium summary set-forth above. Ms. Robbie, director of the Emmy Award winning documentary on these cases, has invited the Center to work with her and a creative team from Chapman University in a project to highlight the historic link between Mendez and Brown, teach their legacies, and celebrate their significance in the struggle for civil rights and equal educational opportunity. The Center's director was a Chapman University in April 2013 to advance this project and to be a guest lecturer in Constitutional Law, Civil Rights Advocacy and Equal Educational Opportunity. One of the unique products of this project is the development of an interactive, internet-based video game linking the Mendez and Brown cases and to be used as a supplemental teaching tool for established high school curricula in California and, ultimately, throughout the nation.

Election Protection

The Center collaborates with a coalition of nonpartisan, nonprofit civil rights organizations in the Election Protection Program to secure the right to vote for African American and other minority voters. On November 6. 2012, the Center's director provided election oversight, monitoring and representation at assigned precincts in Norfolk, Virginia.

NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., Civil Rights Institute

Annually, the Center joins with civil rights advocacy groups and lawyers from around the country to participate in the nation's premier civil rights institute convened in Airlie, Virginia, to identify and address the most pressing civil rights issues faced by African American, Latino and other minorities in communities across the country, including education and equal educational opportunity, voting rights and voter suppression, employment, housing, health care, and the criminal justice system. Throughout the year, participants coordinate and collaborate their efforts on each of these pressing civil rights initiatives.

NAACP National Civil Rights Law Summit and NAACP National Convention

In partnership with the NAACP and its network of branches throughout the nation, the Center participates in the NAACP National Convention each year, including the National Civil Rights Law Summit. It specifically provides leadership training to NAACP leaders across the country and to NAACP lawyers who work with them on critical civil rights issues in their communities. In collaboration with the NAACP, the Center is working with NAACP branches to identify and address continuing education policies and practices that foster discrimination or perpetuate segregated conditions in education. Diversity in higher education is also being addressed, including educational equity issues significant to students who attend HBCUs. In addition to civil rights issues pertinent to equal educational opportunity, the Center also contributes to the collaborative efforts to address voting rights and voter suppression issues, including organization and training for the Election Protection program. Other issues addressed with NAACP leadership and branches include fair housing, environmental justice, health disparities, economic justice, and mass incarceration of African Americans.

Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance

The Robert M. Bell Center initiated a partnership with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance (New York, Los Angeles) to develop and perpetuate strategies, curricula and programs for teaching tolerance as a means to advance civil rights and equal justice. The Wiesenthal Center has developed a dynamic and effective method of focusing on the historic patterns of stereotyping, profiling, discrimination and bigotry in order to address contemporary discrimination with all of its similar and repetitive patterns. In meetings in New York, the Wiesenthal Center and the Robert M. Bell Center agreed to develop ways in which this teaching method can be effective in elementary, secondary and higher education through symposia, lectures, curricula, museum visits, etc.

UB21: Summit on Hispanic Students and Higher Education - Proximos Pasos

The Center's director was invited to join and collaborate with a council convened by the University of Baltimore College of Public Affairs to address, in a continuing effort, Maryland's increasing Latino demographic and the top issues necessary to ensure their success in secondary and postsecondary education. The council includes representation from Baltimore City Public Schools, including the Superintendent, UB researchers and administrators, university partners, public advocacy representatives, business leaders and federal, state and city government officials. The council's first meeting was convened in December 2012.

University of Utah Honors College and Law School

At the invitation of the University of Utah Honors College, the Center agreed to consult, advise and collaborate with the College in its efforts to (1) increase racial and ethnic diversity in the Honors program and (2) incorporate civil rights awareness, advocacy and service into the teaching and learning experiences of honor students in the program, particularly with the view towards graduating students who are inclined and prepared to address such issues in their careers and community service. This collaboration has also led to an invitation to sit on an advisory council for the University's law school to specifically provide assistance with respect to increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the law school and to incorporate strategies and programs that will better prepare students for civil rights advocacy and careers in public interest law.

Institute of Notre Dame, Baltimore

The Center has periodically been invited to address students at the Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore and highlight contemporary issues in civil rights and civil rights advocacy, particularly in the field of education. The Center has joined with faculty and students in their efforts to plan meaningful events for Black History Month and to consider ways to incorporate what they had learned into activities and programs throughout the year.

Maryland Education Association

The Maryland Education Association invited the Center to join its retreat in Cambridge, Maryland, in order to advise is members on lawful and effective means to identify and eliminate educational practices that foster discrimination against minority students and perpetuate segregated conditions in our schools, including in-school segregation through ability grouping and tracking practices and discipline policies.

Maryland Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights

The Center's director was appointed by the United States Commission on Civil Rights to serve as a member of the Maryland State Advisory Committee to the Commission. The appointment is for a term of two years, effective through the year 2012, and is subject to re-appointment of up to five consecutive terms.

The United States Commission on Civil Rights is a bipartisan federal agency established by Congress in 1957. Its mission is to investigate complaints alleging that persons are deprived of their civil rights by reason of race, color, religion, sex, age, disability, national origin, or in the administration of justice and to study and collect information relating to discrimination or the denial of equal protection of the laws under the United States Constitution on these same stated grounds. The Commission appraises federal laws and policies with respect to these matters, serves as a national clearinghouse for information respecting discrimination or the denial of equal protection of the laws, submits reports, findings and recommendations to the President and Congress, and issues public service announcements on matters of discrimination and equal protection.

To coordinate its operations nationwide, the Commission has established six regional offices staffed by a director, civil rights analysts and other administrative personnel. State Advisory Committees are established to inform the Commission about civil rights and equal protection issues of state and national concern. The advisory committees render advice and recommendations to the Commission on matters identified and studied at the regional, state and local levels. Committee activities cover a broad range of civil rights concerns under the Commission's statutory jurisdiction, ultimately resulting in advising and informing the Commission through formal presentations, reports and statements of concern.

The Maryland State Advisory Committee is presently addressing race and racial disparities in Maryland's incarceration rates and the impact and civil rights ramifications on African American and other minority communities, including, but not limited to, the impact on economic and educational opportunities within these communities.

U.S. - Brazil Joint Action Plan to Promote Racial and Ethnic Equality (Steering Group), United States Department of State

At the invitation of the Provost and the White House Initiative on HBCUs, the Center participated in the steering group's discussions and planning with respect to key themes for the promotion of racial and ethnic equality, including civil rights and education, access to justice, environmental justice, health and economic opportunities and labor. Particular emphasis is given to the Education and Civil Rights Working Group and its objectives, projects and next steps.