Marita Carroll, civil rights activist

Marita Carroll
Marita Carroll(Jed Kirschbaum, Baltimore Sun)

Marita Carroll, a retired Annapolis elementary school teacher and civil rights activist who was arrested on trespassing charges in 1960 as she sat at a bus stop lunch counter, died of complications from Alzheimer's disease Saturday at Anne Arundel Medical Center. The Eastport resident was 91.

She became known as a member of the "Annapolis Five" for her role in helping to end segregation at local restaurants. She was later board chair of the city's housing authority.


"Ms. Carroll represented a generation of activists who believed that one must be willing to take risk in order to bring about social change," said former Annapolis Alderman Carl O. Snowden. "She understood that an activist is like a ship in the water: They must make waves if there is to be progress."

Born Mary Marita Carroll in Annapolis, she was the daughter of John Carroll, a Navy employee, and Leona Carroll, a housekeeper. She was a graduate of Bates High School and earned a degree from what is now Bowie State University. She later earned a master's degree from New York University at a time when African-Americans were not allowed to attend Maryland's graduate schools. She belonged to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.


She began teaching in a segregated one-room school in Harwood. She retired in 1983 after teaching for 41 years.

In a 1991 Baltimore Sun article, she recalled segregation in Annapolis. She recalled how black men and women could not eat in the Little Tavern, a chain of hamburger shops that once operated in the Baltimore-Washington area. African-Americans could buy a hamburger, but it had to be passed through a window. They were not permitted to sit on counter stools.

"She became part of a movement that began in February 1960, when four black college students in Greensboro, N.C., defied segregation by taking seats at a Woolworth lunch counter. The four students sat for hours without being served, then came back to sit some more," the 1991 article said. "They were joined by other college students and attracted the attention of the national press. Their sit-in spawned a movement throughout the South to crack racial barriers in stores and restaurants."

Just after Thanksgiving in 1960, Ms. Carroll and four others — another teacher, a dentist and two businessmen — were arrested on a trespassing charge at the old Baltimore & Annapolis Railroad Co.'s terminal restaurant, a West Street lunchroom at the city's bus station.

"Unlike many demonstrations in the Washington area, and elsewhere by college students — with whites often outnumbering Negroes — the Annapolis sit-in was conducted by adult Negro residents of Annapolis," a 1960 Washington Post article said.

She later recalled the incident. "The man on duty said he could not serve us," she said in 1991. "We said we wouldn't leave. He called the police. They came and read us the Trespass Act. We still refused to leave. So we were arrested."

Ms. Carroll accompanied her fellow protesters, Dr. Samuel Callahan, Ethel Thompson, Lacey McKinney and William "Lamb" Johnson, to a jail on Duke of Gloucester Street.

She recalled she was not handcuffed and they were not mistreated by police. One of the group was a bail bondsman. He posted bond, and she and the others were released. She said in 1991 that they then went to the home of Dr. Callahan, a dentist. They made some picketing placards and resumed protests outside a West Street doughnut shop.

"The demonstrations went on for weeks: from the Terminal Restaurant to Henkel's steakhouse, where Carroll and several others sitting at a booth were sprayed with a garden hose by the owner; from Henkel's to Antoinette's, where the owner threatened demonstrators outside the restaurant with a knife," the 1991 Sun article said.

The demonstrations achieved their aims, she said. By 1963, many restaurants had lifted their barriers. That year she started teaching in an integrated classroom at Eastport Elementary School. She had earlier taught at an all-black school at Third Street and Chester Avenue in Eastport.

"Many white parents responded by asking the principal to transfer their children out of Carroll's classroom," The Sun's article said. "When the superintendent got wind of the transfers, he ordered them stopped."

White parents, she said, "found out I was as qualified as the next person. They found out I was a human being." News articles said that at the end of the academic year, some of the white parents reversed their stand and thanked her.


She also traveled with fellow Annapolitans to Washington to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. give his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

In 1986, Annapolis Mayor Dennis Callahan named Ms. Carroll to the five-member board of commissioners of the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis.

In 1997, she received a Pathfinder Award at a Tribute to Women of Color luncheon.

She was a member of Mount Zion United Methodist Church.

Plans for a funeral are incomplete.

Survivors include her sister, Hazel Williams of Eastport.

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