Reginald L. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture director A. Skipp Sanders was wrong to bar civil rights pioneer Helena Hicks from entering the premises, and she was wrong about the civil rights movement and former Black Panther leader Eddie Conway ("Lewis museum bars civil rights veteran from anniversary event," Oct. 8).

The civil rights movement was not just about Martin Luther King's nonviolence crusade to address racial oppression. Lynching, murder and intimidation were the tools used to enforce that oppression, and Robert Williams, Malcolm X, the Deacons for Defense and Justice and Maryland's own Gloria Richardson all called on blacks to arm themselves for self-defense.


The mainstream press and conservative scholars equate violence with self-defense. Maryland's great civil rights activist from Cambridge, Gloria Richardson, was not allowed to speak at the historic 1963 March on Washington because she believed in self-defense. The Deacons for Defense, an armed civil rights self-defense group in the South during the 1960s, returned KKK gun violence with bullets of their own. And Malcolm famously believed in an "eye for an eye."

The civil rights movement left oppressed black communities in the urban North virtually untouched. Malcolm used to say that as long as you're south of the Canadian border, you are in the South.

The Black Panthers' breakfast programs, their stance against the Vietnam War, and their anti-police brutality campaigns were part of the group's liberation struggle. Many think Mr. Conway was framed through the FBI's secret Cointelpro program, which targeted the Panthers as well as black leaders such as King.

Mr. Conway's life deserves no scorn. There is still a lot of civil and human rights work left to do for all of us.

Ken Morgan, Baltimore

The writer teaches urban studies at Coppin State University.


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