Rebecca E. Carroll, schools official, dies; Deputy superintendent was active in church

Rebecca E. Carroll, retired city schools deputy superintendent who wrote eloquently about segregated Baltimore and racism, died yesterday of pancreatic cancer at Greater Baltimore Medical Center. She was 81 and was a resident of Morgan Park in Northeast Baltimore.

Born in Baltimore, she began her career as an elementary school teacher and ended it as the second-in-command of the entire system. She was offered the superintendent's post but declined and chose retirement in 1981.


Over the years, she also was principal of two elementary schools, an area supervisor, area director and assistant superintendent before she became deputy superintendent.

The former Rebecca Evans grew up on Dolphin Street near today's Bolton Hill.


She was class valedictorian at Frederick Douglass High School. She attended Coppin State College and received her bachelor of arts degree from Morgan State College.

In the early 1940s, Mrs. Carroll was part of a group of black students the legislature sent out of state to avoid having blacks and whites mix in higher education circles. She traveled to the University of Chicago to get her master's degree. Later she returned and earned her doctorate from the University of Maryland.

"The silliness of it all wasn't lost on us," she said, in a 1995 interview with The Sun. "We were pained and angered that we couldn't go to schools in our own state, but we also knew that this was something we could take advantage of," allowing black students to attend prestigious schools outside the state.

In 1985, as a schools consultant, she wrote a report for the Metropolitan Alliance of Black School Educators that singled out the high black poverty rate as contributing largely to school troubles -- poor attendance, high drop-out rates and low achievement.

In 1996, she published a book about her life in Baltimore called "Snapshots: The Thoughts and Experiences of an African-American Woman."

In the book, she said that as a child in segregated Baltimore, she was ignored by sales clerks in some stores.

She also encountered segregation within the Roman Catholic Church on a visit to the Basilica of the Assumption in downtown Baltimore. There, signs on the last three pews read, "colored only."

"Suppose God was black and wanted to worship in the shrine," she wrote in her memoir. "Where would He be able to sit?"


On the subject of racism, Mrs. Carroll wrote: "The fault lies with both groups. You've got hardened isolationists on both sides, some with deep hatred. The schools haven't done nearly enough to work on the relationships between the races."

She recalled the extreme measures used to keep the races apart.

"If blacks and whites had to occupy the same railroad car, they would tape up a sheet of brown paper to separate us. It's amazing the lengths that people went to keep us from mixing," she said in the 1995 interview.

In 1943, she married James L. Carroll, a public school principal. The entire sixth grade at the school she was teaching -- No. 116 at Aisquith and Orleans streets -- attended their wedding.

Mr. Carroll died in 1991.

In a 1997 interview with The Sun on the subject of black English, Mrs. Carroll recalled the language used along Dolphin Street in the 1920s: "It was a complicated mixture of pronunciation derived from the slaves and street slang [educated blacks] took great pride in choosing their words well. We also talked to a wider group of people," she said.


"Those who speak black English tend to talk only to each other," she said, adding that in the old days, "They listened only to each other."

For many years, she served as a gubernatorial appointee to the board of regents of Morgan State University and the Maryland Public Broadcasting Commission. She was a board member of the Lyric Theatre.

Mrs. Carroll has been president of the Baltimore alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

In retirement, she was active in committee and consultant work for the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

She worked as a volunteer for the National Black Catholic Congress, the House of the Good Shepherd, the Archdiocesan Finance Committee and the Consortium of Catholic High Schools.

She was awarded a papal medal -- Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice -- and was among a group of Baltimore Catholics who met Pope John Paul II in Baltimore in 1995.


She was prefect of the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary of St. Pius V Roman Catholic Church, Edmondson Avenue and Schroeder Street, where a funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday.

She is survived by a daughter, Constance Carroll, president of San Diego Mesa College in San Diego, Calif., and a niece, Myra Harris of Baltimore.

Pub Date: 10/02/99