Gloria St. Clair Hayes Richardson (born May 6, 1922) is best known as the leader of the Cambridge Movement, a civil rights struggle in Cambridge, Maryland in the 1960s. The Movement made significant strides against institutionalized racial discrimination in Cambridge by bringing attention to social injustices such as inadequate wages, poor housing, and poor health care.
Gloria Richardson was born in Baltimore, Maryland to John and Mable Hayes, and could trace her family roots back to St. Augustine, Florida. Her father was a pharmacist and her mother was a piano teacher/homemaker. During the early years of the Great Depression, the Hayes family moved from Baltimore to Mable Hayes' hometown of Cambridge, Maryland. The family’s move to Cambridge was the result of encouragement from Mable's father, Herbert Maynadier St. Clair, who wanted his daughter to move back to Cambridge as the city's African-American Second Ward needed and could support a pharmacist.
Herbert M. St. Clair was one of Cambridge's wealthiest and most powerful citizens. He owned and ran a butcher shop, grocery store, and funeral parlor. He owned numerous properties in the city's Second Ward. In addition to having real economic power in Cambridge, St. Clair was also the longest serving African-American member of Cambridge's City Council, having served for most of the first half of the 20th century. In his capacity as Second Ward councilman, St. Clair was instrumental at securing public funds to support the Black public schools, as well as securing jobs for Black residents at the town's canning factories. St. Clair secured these resources for Cambridge's black residents by engaging in a gradualist approach in race relations. The gradualist approach was premised on the argument that the progress of African Americans would come about only through incremental, non-confrontational steps.
Richardson lived in a tightly knit community where her immediate and extended family lived within blocks of each another and everyone got together on holidays and for outings. Richardson appreciated her family’s intellectualism. The young Gloria was taught by her parents to critically interrogate and analyze all sorts of social, economic, and political issues of the day. Richardson's socialization process was also carried out by the teachers at her racially segregated schools, and both her family and teachers taught Richardson to appreciate and respect African-Americans' resistance to the idea of white supremacy. Richardson was taught about Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. Her family took her to important sites in American history such as the nearby Eastern Shore town of Salisbury where a black man was lynched in the early 1930s, as well as to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia where the abolitionist of lore, John Brown, led an unsuccessful interracial assault on the town's arsenal in an attempt to overthrow the nation's racist hierarchy.
Howard University 
In 1938, aged 16, Richardson graduated from high school. In the fall of that same year, she enrolled at Howard University, an historically black institution in Washington, D.C. She received a B.A. in sociology in 1942. Some of her professors at Howard were among the nation’s most accomplished academics and intellectuals. These included historian Rayford Logan, literary scholar Sterling Brown, and eminent sociologist E. Franklin Frazier. Frazier would gain fame for, among other things, publishing the influential polemic, The Black Bourgeoisie. Under the tutelage of Logan, Brown, and especially Frazier, Richardson learned to more fully appreciate her African ancestry, as well as how to hone her analytical skills in order to fight bigotry and discrimination.
After graduating from Howard, Richardson stayed in Washington, D.C., working as a civil servant in the expanding federal government, but moved back to Cambridge to be with her family. Upon her return to Cambridge, she quickly met and then married a local school teacher, Harry Richardson. They had two daughters, Donna and Tamara, however, the marriage ended in divorce by the end of the 1950s.
The Cambridge Movement 
Gloria Richardson's elder daughter, Donna, helped get her mother involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Donna was a high school student in the early 1960s and she worked with civil rights organizations including Baltimore's Civic Interest Group (CIG), led by Clarence Logan, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which targeted Cambridge for a desegregation campaign of public accommodations.
Gloria Richardson and other parents of local children decided to take matters into their own hands by organizing the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC). CNAC was the only adult-led affiliate in SNCC's history. CNAC was group-centered and member driven. Shortly after its creation, Richardson was asked to join Enez Grubb as the organization's executive committee co-chair. Richardson accepted the job because she felt strongly that she owed her fellow black residents a great debt because they were the people who had provided her and her family with a comfortable life through their patronage of her family's businesses.
While desegregation of public accommodations was the original goal of the Cambridge Movement, activists quickly learned by way of survey information gathered in the Second Ward that Black residents cared more about social justice issues, such as jobs that paid a living wage, adequate housing, and health care. Throughout the height of the Cambridge Movement, CNAC and its opponents engaged in demonstrations and counter-demonstrations which often became volatile. Some of these encounters resulted in fist-fights and gun battles which prompted Maryland’s governor to send in the National Guard in the middle of June 1963, where it remained for more than one year.
Civil strife in Cambridge was put at bay in July 1963, when CNAC and its entrenched opposition signed off on a non-binding agreement that became known as the “Treaty of Cambridge”. The “Treaty” was negotiated by U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) members including Robert F. Kennedy, and was signed in his office at the Justice Department. The “Treaty” contained a list of actions to be taken by the Cambridge City Council and other local elected officials, including the creation of a bi-racial “Human Relations Commission”, the ending of de facto segregation in the city’s primary schools, and building a public housing project. The document also pointed out that Cambridge's City Council passed an amendment to the city's charter to desegregate public accommodations. However this charter amendment could be put up for referendum by city voters if enough signed a petition to do so, and that was what happened. A sufficient number of white voters supported the challenge to the charter amendment and the amendment was put up for a popular vote on October 1, 1963.
Richardson boycotted the vote and her decision to do so drew heavy criticism. Her rationale for a boycott of the polls rested on her belief that people’s human rights were not something that should be voted upon by the general population, especially one that was so hostile to Black people. Richardson and many others stayed away from the polls and the charter amendment went down to defeat, to the ire of the charter’s supporters. National civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr. argued that all eligible black voters in Cambridge should go to the polls especially when so many blacks in the Deep South were struggling to get the right to vote. Richardson, however, argued that when your fellow citizenry put up your rights for popular vote it's best to stay out of that process because while it may be legal, it is nevertheless an immoral and therefore illegitimate exercise of power.
Increasingly radicalized, Richardson went on to meet with Malcolm X and began collaborating with him in the creation of the civil rights organization, ACT (not an acronym). Richardson met Malcolm X a number of weeks after the referendum vote when she traveled to Detroit to participate in a Southern Christian Leadership Conference workshop. While she was in town she decided to attend a speech by Malcolm X. It was during this event, in which X gave his “Message to the Grass Roots” speech, that Richardson and Malcolm X met. They struck up a friendship and collaborated with Chicago school boycott leader Lawrence Landry, among others, to build the new civil rights organization ACT, whose focus was “to counteract the ‘paralyzing’ effect that mainstream civil rights organizations such as the NAACP and SCLC” were having on the Black liberation movement. Richardson also worked with Malcolm X in his Organization for Afro-American Unity (OAAU) until his assassination on February 21, 1965.
Leaving Cambridge 
By the summer of 1964, Richardson resigned from the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee. She gave three main reasons for her decision. First, she did not want to become an icon who would serve as a retardant to the rise of other local leaders. Second, she was completely exhausted by the years of non-stop nerve-racking activism in which she confronted, among other things, weapon wielding police and National Guardsmen. Finally, she resigned from CNAC because she had married freelance photographer Frank Dandridge and moved with him and her daughter, Tamara, to his home in New York City. Richardson remained active and volunteered at the SNCC office near her new home. Gloria and Frank Dandridge were divorced by the late 1960s. Gloria continued to live in New York with her younger daughter, Tamara Richardson.
In the following years, Richardson held various jobs at places such as the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson, the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and the anti-poverty program Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited and Associated Community Teams (HARYOU-ACT). It was at these jobs that Richardson utilized her extensive organizing and leadership experience to deliver goods and services to the organizations’ target populations.
By the mid-1970s, Richardson landed a job with the City of New York where she has worked ever since. Currently, she works in the City's Department for the Aging. She is active as a labor union delegate.
- Fitzgerald, Joseph R. Days of Wine and Roses: The Life of Gloria Richardson (an as yet unpublished doctoral dissertation for Temple University), 2005.
- Levy, Peter. Civil War on Race Street: the Civil Rights Movement in Cambridge, Maryland (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003)
- Foreman, Anita K. (), Gloria Richardson: Breaking the Mold, Journal of Black Studies, Vol. 26, #5. May 1996, pp. 604–615.
- Harley, Sharon. Chronicle of a Death Foretold: Gloria Richardson, the Cambridge Movement, and the Radical Black Activist Tradition, Bettye Collier-Thomas and V. P. Franklin, editors.
- Sisters in the Struggle: African American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement New York University Press, 2001, pp. 174–196.
- Trever, Edward K. Gloria Richardson and the Cambridge Civil Rights Movement, 1962-1964. Thesis: M.A., Morgan State University, 1994.
See also