The 2023 Harford Civil Rights Project – Civil Rights Leadership Award was presented to Janice East Moorehead Grant, who has a long history of civil rights leadership in Harford County, at a reception at Harford Community College on February 9. The award, which was presented for the first time ever, represents lifetime achievement and dedication to civil rights.
There were several speakers at the event including Dr. James Karmel, Harford Civil Rights Project (HCRP) Director and Professor of History at Harford Community College, who welcomed guests to the reception. Additional speakers included Dr. Theresa Felder, Harford Community College President; Julie Mancine, Hays-Heighe House Coordinator; and Munah Tukpei, HCRP Student Scholar (fall 2022). Keynote speaker Dr. David Terry, Morgan State University, discussed “The Twentieth Century Black Struggle in the South and Its Allies.” In addition, Margaret Ferguson, former co-chair of the Campaign 42 African American History of Harford County Project, made remarks about award recipient Janice East Moorehead Grant.
Janice East Moorehead Grant was born in Aberdeen, Harford County in 1933. She grew up in the Jim Crow era when Harford County, Maryland was segregated by race in most aspects of education, business, government, and culture. She attended segregated schools as a child, graduating from the Havre de Grace Colored School in 1951. After college, she taught at the Havre de Grace Consolidated School where she quickly became a leader among her fellow educators in advocating for rights and equal treatment for students and teachers of color. Notably, she was a key plaintiff in the final and successful lawsuit filed against Harford County Public Schools (HCPS) in 1964 to completely desegregate the district ahead of its existing plan that would take until 1967, 13 years after the 1954 Supreme Court decision (Brown vs. the Board of Education) declaring segregated schools “inherently unequal.” Mrs. Grant helped lead the effort to overcome one of the final barriers to full school desegregation in Harford: the district’s determined efforts to prevent Black teachers from teaching white students. She advocated for full equal opportunity for black students and educators in Harford County along with her late husband, Woody Grant.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Mrs. Grant also became a leader in various efforts in Harford County and greater Baltimore in support of civil rights. She led protests for fair housing, open schools, and greater economic equality through employment. She mentored the Harford NAACP youth chapter in these years and was arrested twice: in Joppatowne, while demonstrating against housing discrimination, and protesting racial exclusion at the Gwynn Oak Park amusement park in Baltimore County. She led efforts to desegregate Harford restaurants on Route 40, and supported the 1961 Freedom Ride. She provided support to residents and others involved in the 1963 March on Washington. In 1964, she participated in the Mississippi Freedom Summer effort to register voters and set up “Freedom Schools” in the state. She faced violent racist opposition in Mississippi, at one point finding safety by hiding in the trunk of a car.
Later, she and Woody joined the Peace Corps. She served as a teacher in Liberia where she also earned one of her three master’s degrees. In the 1990s, she served as the president of Harford’s NAACP chapter, leading civil rights efforts for Black soldiers stationed at Aberdeen Proving Ground among other actions. Mrs. Grant remains active as a civil rights leader in the Harford community, serving as a board member of The Havre de Grace Colored School Museum and Cultural Center and she is a member of the NAACP. She regularly participates in various activities and events, sharing her remarkable life story and wisdom in support of civil rights.
Sharoll Williams-Love, Student Diversity Specialist & Soar2Success Coordinator, Harford Community College, and Dr. Karmel made closing remarks.
The Harford Civil Rights Project
This student research and oral history endeavor focuses on the role that Harford County played in the civil rights movement. The original project included the development of curriculum, community partnerships, and digital material on Harford County’s 20th century civil rights history. It is designed to deepen students’ understanding of related literary works, local and national history, and broaden community awareness of the region’s contribution to the civil rights movement. Initially funded by a three-year $97,118 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the “Active Learning and Student Engagement in the Humanities: Understanding the Civil Rights Movement in Harford County, Maryland” project was also intended to stimulate student interest in such humanities disciplines as English and history.
A team of 12 Harford Community College faculty and staff, colleagues from the University of Baltimore and Notre Dame of Maryland University, more than 500 Harford students, and community members collaborate on the project.
Additional information can be found here.