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Miriam DeCosta-Willis, retired UMBC professor who received degrees from Johns Hopkins, dies

MEMPHIS, TENN. — Miriam DeCosta-Willis, a retired University of Maryland, Baltimore County professor who received master’s and doctoral degrees from the Johns Hopkins University, died last week, according to the University of Memphis.

DeCosta-Willis, a participant in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, was 86. A cause of death wasn’t released.

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She participated in the Montgomery bus boycott, helped lead a boycott of Memphis Public Schools and joined protest marches in Washington, the university said.

DeCosta-Willis, who was denied entrance to what was then Memphis State University in 1957, later became the first Black professor there in 1966 as a Spanish teacher.

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She also worked at Howard University, George Mason University and UMBC, teaching languages and Africana studies, and wrote or edited 15 books.

The University of Memphis dedicated a historical marker to her in December.

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