Marita Carroll was one of the first African American female civil rights activists who helped to make a difference in Annapolis and beyond.
After the February sit-in in Greensboro, North Carolina, where four black college students sat at a Woolworth’s lunch counter that was for whites only, five Annapolis residents decided to stage a similar protest in Annapolis. On Thanksgiving evening November 24, 1960, the five walked into the Terminal Restaurant on West St. and refused to leave when the man on duty said he could not serve them. The police were called, and the five were arrested. The two women and three men were Marita Carroll, a second-grade teacher at Parole Elementary School, Ethel Mae Thompson first-grade teacher at the same school, Lacey McKinney, a Clay Street beauty shop owner, Dr. Samuel Callahan, a dentist, and William Henry Johnson, a bail bondsman. Their protest was different from most others in that they were adults working in the community and not college students, like most of the other protests going on around the country.
Carroll remembered later that they were neither handcuffed nor mistreated by the police. After Johnson was able to post bond for them, they were released and went to Dr. Callahan’s home to make picket signs. They and others continued to picket several restaurants in Annapolis, including the Terminal, Henkel’s Steak House, and Antoinette’s for a number of weeks.
By 1963, most restaurants and theaters in Annapolis had lifted racial barriers. That year the Black school in Eastport was closed, and Carroll started teaching an integrated group of students at Eastport Elementary School. Initially, eight white students were transferred out of the school, but Miss Carroll was able to win over many others.
Mary Marita Carroll was born November 2, 1921, to John and Leona Murray Carroll. She grew up in Eastport with four sisters and one brother. She graduated from Bates High School and Bowie State College and began her teaching career in a one-room, segregated school in Harwood in about 1942. She later went on to get a master’s degree from New York University and retired from teaching in 1983, having taught for 41 years.
She was active with the Congress of Racial Equality and in 1963 was one of many Annapolitans who traveled to Washington to hear the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I Have a Dream” speech. She was appointed to the five-member Annapolis Housing Authority board of commissioners in 1986, and later, Mayor Dennis Callahan appointed her president of the organization. In 1997 she received a Pathfinder Award at the “A Tribute to Women of Color Luncheon.”
She was an active member of Mt. Zion United Methodist Church and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. She died in her sleep from complications of Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 91 on October 26, 2013, and is buried in John Wesley Annapolis Neck Cemetery.