Next, the politics of hair came face to face with strict Jesuit discipline. When Loyola threatened to expel the students if they did not shave and cut their hair, March called in reinforcements - family friends and civil rights activists Parren J. Mitchell, Walter P. Carter and March's uncle, Judge John R. Hargrove Sr.
The students won.
Some white students found their black classmates hip, admiring their disobedience as well as their dog-eared copies of black literature and the flashy dashiki that Thomas draped over his suit and tie. Others were perplexed. What exactly were they reading? Why the big hair and the colorful clothes? What were they trying to prove?
What they couldn't have realized was that this was only the beginning. Thomas and Moore began dabbling in Black Panther meetings and took their new status as conscious black men so seriously they began carrying briefcases to school.
Amid nights cramming for math tests, Moore, March and Thomas plotted to start a black student union at Loyola, demanding black faculty and black studies courses. The school responded by agreeing to their requests. By senior year, Foreman had become so popular - a bridge between the black and white students - he was elected president of the student government association.
The four students' awakening was not unique. In Baltimore and nationwide, some called the movement black power, a new, louder brand of black militancy. But for these students and many others, it was simply a time of discovery.
"It wasn't like the whole city of Baltimore exploded with it, but consciousness took place in subtle ways," said Paul Coates, a former Black Panther who founded Black Classic Press, a Baltimore publishing company. "There was a community of people who were looking for ways to latch onto and identify with what it meant to be black."
Their coming-of-age discoveries at Loyola influenced their life decisions.
March, as head of his family's funeral home, chose not to move the headquarters of the business to Baltimore County, as so many city companies and residents had done. He felt the only way to help sustain East North Avenue was to stay.
This choice has meant facing the grim reality of burying black victims of the violence that permeates some city neighborhoods. King would be heartbroken.
Moore, after graduating from the Johns Hopkins University, returned to Loyola for two years as a rule-bending teacher. Later, he battled poverty through various agencies, ultimately settling into his post at St. Frances Academy in East Baltimore. Every year on the King holiday, he holds a job fair dedicated to the civil rights leader's anti-poverty legacy.
Foreman left Baltimore. In academia, he avoided studying race and urban issues, fearful of being pigeonholed.
He became an expert on government policy and environmental justice, only recently returning in part to the topics that riveted him 40 years ago.
Every so often he descends to his basement and pulls from a shelf his high school yearbook. Leafing beyond the formal portraits of earnest young men in bow ties, he focuses on a single image: the foursome, clad in jeans and T-shirts and proud Afros, striking bold poses before a burned-out East Baltimore rowhouse.
For March, the photograph was a statement: This is my life.
Moore says he was declaring a commitment to fighting injustice. For Foreman, the photo was a way to show his connection to those less fortunate. Even today, he realizes how privileged his Loyola days were. Without them, his life could have taken a bleak turn.
Grounded in their rebel stance, the teens were asserting a new conviction about their identity as black men. At that moment, they weren't sure where it would take them.