Born in 1889, Lillie Mae Carroll was the seventh of eight children in her family. Her father was Methodist minister Charles Henry Carroll. In 1935, she became the leader of the Baltimore Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She quickly grew chapter’s membership from 100 in 1935 to 17,600 in 1946, making Baltimore one of the largest chapters in the country.
Her advocacy efforts included supporting the “Buy Where You Can Work” campaign to promote integrated businesses and boycott segregated ones (1931); leading efforts to register black voters and shift in city politics (1942); and pursuing the integration of Baltimore’s schools after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision (1954). Known as Dr. Jackson after receiving an honorary degree from Morgan State University in 1958, she also served on the NAACP’s national board. For the 35 years she led the Baltimore NAACP, she never earned a paycheck, using her rental properties as her sole source of income.
Lillie M. Carroll Jackson died in 1975 at 86 years old. In her will, she left her home, often the center of operations for her chapter, to her daughter Virginia Kiah for the construction of a museum. Virginia, an artist, quickly began turning her mother’s old house into a museum of Civil Rights. The museum opened in 1978. The house, in which Jackson lived from 1953 to 1975, holds Civil Rights Movement photos, documents and memorabilia. The house stood as the first privately owned black museum to be named after a black woman. In honor of her mother’s wishes, Virginia kept the museum free of charge to ensure that it was accessible to everyone.
After the museum closed in the 1990s, Morgan State University took over the management of the building. In 2012, Morgan State University completed a beautiful restoration of Jackson’s spacious Bolton Hill home on Eutaw Place and the building is poised to open as the Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum.