WASHINGTON (December 2, 2003) -- Law firm Venable LLP and CarrAmerica Realty Corporation (NYSE:CRE) will formally dedicate on Dec. 4 an exhibit honoring Mary Church Terrell (1863-1954), a prominent civil rights activist, who led the successful struggle to desegregate Washington’s dining establishments in the 1950s. The permanent exhibit is housed at Venable’s new Washington location at Terrell Place, 575 7th Street, NW. Washington Delegate to Congress Eleanor Holmes Norton is scheduled to make opening remarks at the dedication.
The museum-quality exhibit is located in the gallery space of Terrell Place’s lobby. The display honoring Mrs. Terrell is focal point of the new project, which includes the former Hecht’s department store. The Terrell Place project, which was developed by CarrAmerica Urban Development LLC, a subsidiary of CarrAmerica, is an important part of an ongoing Seventh Street Corridor Renaissance. It is also located in the very neighborhood that Mary Church Terrell fought to desegregate more than a half century ago.
The exhibit celebrates Mrs. Terrell’s life and decades-long contributions as a champion of civil rights in Washington. In the 1950s, she launched a campaign to enforce anti-discrimination laws that had been part of District law since the 1870s. Her work came from personal experience. One day she and several colleagues entered segregated Thompson Restaurant, and when they were refused service, promptly filed a lawsuit. In subsequent years, Mrs. Terrell targeted other restaurants, including the lunch counter at the former Hecht’s department store, using boycotts, pickets, and sit-ins. On June 8, 1953, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated eating establishments in Washington, DC were unconstitutional.
“The efforts of Mary Church Terrell went a long way toward ending segregation in Washington, and, until her death in 1954, she especially enjoyed the re-integrated Seventh Street Corridor, whose racial barriers she helped destroy,” said Venable partner Robert Wilkins, who served as liaison in the development and design of the exhibit. “She was a true leader in the overall battle for civil rights, and to make Washington a better place to live.”
“We are pleased to have the opportunity to showcase and celebrate the many accomplishments of this truly remarkable woman who spent most of her life as a devoted activist for civil rights and women’s causes,” said Robert Carr, president of CarrAmerica Urban Development. “The exhibit enables us to tell the community about the fascinating, largely undiscovered story of Mary Church Terrell’s life and enriches the lives of all who spend time in our building.”
The Terrell exhibit features several photographs drawn from the collections of the Library of Congress, the Moorland-Springarn Research Center at Howard University, and the National Council of Negro Women. The display also features reproductions of artifacts from the Mary Church Terrell family collections, select quotes and excerpts from Mrs. Terrell’s published works and lectures, and interpretive panels describing her lifetime achievements chronologically and thematically.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1863 to former slaves, Mrs. Terrell was one of the first African-American women to receive a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College in 1884. As a teacher, she received her master’s degree from Oberlin, and three honorary doctorates throughout her life. In 1909, she joined with Mary White Ovington to form the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She was also the first African-American woman to serve on a U.S. board of education, and a Washington, DC elementary school bears her name. The earliest inspiration for her life’s work came from her father’s friend Frederick Douglass. It was through Mr. Douglass that she gained her first experience in civil rights campaigns. She wrote several books, including her 1940 autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World.
CarrAmerica, (www.carramerica.com), owns, develops and operates office properties in 12 markets throughout the United States. The Company has become one of America’s leading office workplace communities by meeting the rapidly changing needs of its customers with superior service, a large portfolio of quality office properties and extraordinary development capabilities. Currently, CarrAmerica and its affiliates own, directly or through joint ventures, interests in a portfolio of 297 operating office properties and has an office building under development in Washington, DC.
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