UM Presents a Documentary Honoring Maryland Civil Rights Leader Walter P. Carter
The University of Maryland (UM) in Baltimore staged the premiere of a historic documentary about Baltimore civil rights leader Walter P. Carter at a campus event held Feb. 2 to celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month.
Referred to as "The Martin Luther King of Maryland," social worker Carter played an integral role in advancing equal rights for African-Americans in Baltimore City and throughout Maryland in the 1960s and early '70s. The documentary, Walter P. Carter: Champion for Change, features interviews with those who knew and worked with Carter, who was head of the Baltimore arm of the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE).
The event also honored (pictured) an interdisciplinary initiative, Promise Heights, which benefits residents of West Baltimore. Led onstage by Dean Richard P. Barth, PhD, MSW, of the School of Social Work (SSW), 60 individuals received MLK Jr. Diversity Recognition Awards for their work in the initiative. The group of students, faculty and staff members, and community residents included the executive director of Promise Heights, Bronwyn Mayden, MSW '77, who also is assistant dean of continuing education at the School.
"We're here to celebrate the work of Dr. King and to honor all those who work for a free and just society," said University of Maryland President Jay A. Perman, MD, speaking of his personal pride in the University's commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.
Perman paid tribute to the executive producer of the documentary, Anthony Lehman, MD, MSPH, for initiating that project. Lehman, associate dean for clinical affairs and professor at the School of Medicine(SOM), is chair of the Department of Psychiatry, which provides community mental health services in a building that is named for Carter. Lehman recognized that little had been done to document Carter's significant contributions to civil rights.
Using archival materials and historic footage, the documentary depicts Carter's leadership in the 1960s to demand equal treatment through sit-ins, picketing, and demonstrations. Larry Gibson, LLM, professor at the UM Francis King Carey School of Law , is among those who recounted Carter's unrelenting efforts from their own viewpoints in the battle against segregation.
Carter, who earned a master's degree in social work from Howard University, taught courses at the UM SSW and became assistant director of its VISTA Training Center in 1967. Four years later, after giving a speech before the Black United Front at Union Baptist Church in Baltimore, he died at the age of 48.
In the moments before his death, he had galvanized those in attendance with remarks that were to become Carter's last words: "I will commit the rest of my life to make this city a place where our kids can live." It was July 31, 1971.
The University audience welcomed Carter's family members to the ceremony with warm applause. They included his wife, Joy, and daughters, Judy Carter Cox and Maryland Delegate Jill Carter, JD, and two granddaughters. Joy Carter was among those interviewed in the documentary about their aspirations and fears in the decade of 1961-1971. Other civil rights activists interviewed were the late John Burleigh, the Rev. Vernon Dobson, Cardrienne Griffin, Jim Griffin, Charles Mason, John Roemer, and Charles Simmons, some of whom were present at the premiere. Producers are Susan Hannah Hadary, MA, MA, and John Anglim of MedSchool Maryland Productions, which is affiliated with the SOM.
The Senior Choir of Union Baptist Church, which provided music for the documentary, performed at the University event, which was held in the auditorium at the Medical School Teaching Facility. Fittingly, Union Baptist also is one of the faith-based partners of Promise Heights, a unique partnership that works to improve outcomes for children in the Upton and Druid Heights neighborhoods.
The University's recognition of a group of 60 award recipients who were honored for contributing to Promise Heights is a break with tradition; in past years, awards were given in separate categories for students and for faculty and staff.
The Promise Heights initiative is intended to move public school students from cradle to college to career. A pipeline of accessible, interconnected programs to support families includes Parent University and B'more for Healthy Babies and draws on the work of faculty and students from the SOM as well as the SSW.