White Tower exhibitor calls race issue key

October 24, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

The planned exhibit of a former White Tower restaurant at the Baltimore City Life Museums is not intended as an exercise in nostalgia for the era of segregation.

On the contrary. "The historic change from segregation to integration is revealed in the White Tower story," according to City Life Museums assistant director John Durel, who is planning the exhibition, which opens in 1995.

Mr. Durel was responding to recent letters in three Baltimore newspapers objecting to the exhibit of the White Tower because it was segregated in the 1950s. The letters, written by the Rev. Douglas L. Miles of Baltimore and two by Maria C. Falade of Columbia, were printed in the City Paper, the Evening Sun and the Baltimore Times.

City Life Museums plans to include part of the White Tower restaurant that stood at Howard and Centre Streets in an exhibit called "I Am the City." The White Tower was segregated until 1960, when protests forced the company to change its policy.

Both letter writers recounted incidents of being refused service at the restaurant as children.

Mr. Durel replied to Rev. Miles' letter that the museum is gathering information and stories on "important aspects of modern urban life, including racism, sexism, labor issues, economic change, community transformation, and suburbanization."

"Clearly one of the stories that needs to be told about Baltimore since World War II is the whole process of segregation, desegregation and integration," said Mr. Durel. "We are in the process of discovering the stories and determining how they will be discussed in the White Tower."

Rev. Miles said he is now satisfied with the museum's plans.

Ms. Falade said this week that if City Life Museums really intends to tell the history of White Tower, and the effects of segregation, "then it could be a good thing.

"If they don't, then it's a waste and an insult."

Mr. Durel drafted a letter to Ms. Falade, sent by the office of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, to whom she had also written.

It reads, in part: "Sometimes the history recorded and presented at the City Life Museums is an unpleasant reminder of a past we would rather not think about. Nonetheless, it is important to tell the stories and learn from them."

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