Gloria Richardson

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Gloria Richardson
Gloria St. Clair Hayes

(1922-05-06) May 6, 1922 (age 96)
Known forCambridge movement during 1960's Civil Rights Movement

Gloria Richardson Dandridge (born Gloria St. Clair Hayes, May 6, 1922) is best known as the leader of the Cambridge movement, a civil rights struggle in Cambridge, Maryland in the early 1960s. She was recognized as a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement at the time and was honored on the stage at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Early life[edit]

Gloria Richardson was born to John and Mable Hayes during the Great Depression, she was a member of the affluent St. Clair family, which owned a successful grocery store, funeral home, and had extensive rental property. Her family was involved in politics, her uncle was a lawyer in the state of Maryland and her grandfather served on the Cambridge City Council from 1912 to 1946; he was the first African American on the council.[1] Blacks could vote in Cambridge since the 1800s but were secluded into one of five wards, the Second Ward. Within that ward, blacks had substantial religious and business communities that they themselves owned but had never been able to completely overturn Jim Crow laws. According to Richardson, one uncle, after going to Harvard Law, died in his early twenties when he contracted a major illness after the segregated local hospital would not treat him. Richardson earned a B.A. in sociology from Howard University in 1942. In college, she participated in her first acts of civil disobedience by picketing a segregated Washington DC Woolworth store. People were astounded by her leadership ability because she was from an elite African American family and she was female. Because she was black, they assumed she was poor; because she was female, they assumed she couldn't be as outspoken as the male leaders. The city government would only hire Black social workers to service the black clients in the all black ward. They hired another black woman, so Richardson focused on civic work and raising a family for over the next decade. In an interview with Robert Penn Warren for the book Who Speaks for the Negro?, Richardson commented that in Cambridge, blacks were "the last hired and first fired."[2]

Cambridge movement[edit]

In December 1961, two Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) members Reginald Robinson and William Hansen were sent to Cambridge to get civil rights actions started. They started sit- ins in February to protest segregated facilities in Cambridge. Richardson's daughter Donna was among fellow students who supported the demonstrators. Richardson and Yolanda Sinclair were some of the parents of participating students who wanted to show their support. [3]In 1961, a Freedom Ride came to Cambridge. The black city council member at that time attempted to discourage the campaign by insisting that the city was already desegregated. At first Richardson rarely participated in civil disobedience, because she could not accept the original SNCC nonviolence regulations. Nonetheless, in June 1962, she was asked and helped organize the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC), the first adult-led affiliate of SNCC, and became its official spokesperson.[4] The organization had initially formed in March of that year. CNAC canvassed African American communities, the movements goals expanded to include not only integration of the public facilities but also housing, education, employment, and healthcare. They chose to focus on voter registration in the summer of 1962. CNAC's voter registration drive targeted state senator Frederick Malkus to remove him from office. Senator Malkus constantly fought legislation that would allow additional industries into Dorchester county. This lowered available jobs for the African American community. Richardson explained in an interview on why she was committed to the fact that CNAC's leadership needed to reflect the community it was meant to serve. "The one thing we did was to emphasize that while you should be educated, that education, degrees, college degrees were not essential [here]. If you could articulate the need, if you knew what that need was, if you were aware of the kinds of games that white folk play that was the real thing". [5]

The Cambridge Movement involved black Cambridge residents sitting in at segregated movie theaters, bowling alleys, and restaurants, but after a survey, the movement evolved into a struggle for the economic rights of Cambridge citizens, many of whom were burdened with low wages and unemployment. The Cambridge Movement's focus on economic equality and its use of armed self-defense tactics have been cited as signaling the beginning of the Black Power phase of the Civil Rights movement.[2]

Richardson recalled that she had been a rebellious individual since childhood but also situated herself as part of a community of militant African-American women: "I think I turned out like a lot of women in Cambridge...They did their cooking and ironing, but I don't remember them walking two steps behind anybody, and I think the men knew that. Later most of the members of our civil rights group were women...When we were attacked at demonstrations, they were the ones throwing stones back at the whites."[6]

The Cambridge protests escalated into a major riot in June 1963. On June 11th, following the attack of six white and black demonstrators by white patrons on Dizzyland General Gelston of the National Guard declared himself in charge of the town and set up new rules. He proposed a curfew at 9 P.M. instead of 10, stores were to close at 2 P.M. instead of 9, a ban on firearms, and automobile searches. At 8 P.M. that night 250 African Americans staged a "freedom walk" to the Dorchester courthouse. Shortly after the demonstrators stopped to pray they were attacked and pelted with eggs by crowds of more than 200 white townsfolk. Two carloads of white townsfolk drove in and started a gun fight with armed African Americans. State police used tear gas and guns to disperse the mob. John F. Kennedy ordered the locals to stop their protests against white- only facilities after Governor J. Millard Tawes imposed martial law on Cambridge and sent in the National Guard, Richardson replied that the president could go to hell.[7] Robert F. Kennedy and other Justice Department and housing officials brokered a five-point "Treaty of Cambridge" that was signed in July by the Attorney General's office in Washington, the State Of Maryland, local black leadership-including Richardson, and Cambridge officials.

By the autumn of 1963, black children were entering previously all-white schools, bus transportation was desegregated, the library and hospital were desegregated, and a black policeman was promoted. In this period, Richardson rose to national prominence as a civil rights leader.[8] She was saluted as one of the six "Negro Women Fighters for Freedom" featured on the stage of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963. Like most of the other women that day, however, she was not permitted to address the crowd. (She was only able to say "hello" to the audience before the microphone was taken out of her hands and she was shown off.) [9] Richardson was an inspiration to those seeking to radicalize SNCC, both in terms of her focus on economic security, and her challenging of nonviolent ideology.[10]

A flare-up occurred in Cambridge in May 1964 when Richardson led a march protesting an appearance by segregationist George C. Wallace at the Fireman's Arena, a segregated ice-skating rink that had been the target of many of the original protests. However, in July 1964, President Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act, and the National Guard finally withdrew from Cambridge.

Later life[edit]

A month later, Richardson left Cambridge and married Frank Dandridge, a photographer she had become acquainted with during the demonstrations, and settled in New York City.[8] She largely retired from public life, but continued to work with Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, Associated Community Teams, and the New York City Department for the Aging.[2] In an interview with Gil Noble in 1982, Richardson explained why she was passionate in helping the student demonstrators in the beginning of the Cambridge Movement. She stated that "there was something direct, something real about the way kids waged nonviolent war. This was the first time I saw a vehicle I could work with". [11]


  1. ^ "Gloria Hayes Richardson: Leader of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC)." Westside Gazette.
  2. ^ a b c Warren.
  3. ^ Women In The Civil Rights Movement
  4. ^ Kisseloff, pp. 54-55.
  5. ^ Women In The Civil Rights Movement
  6. ^ Kisseloff, p. 54.
  7. ^ deMause, Neil (2007-03-02). "Elders of the New Left". In These Times. ISSN 0160-5992. Retrieved 2018-03-24.
  8. ^ a b Rasmussen.
  9. ^ "Civil Rights Pioneer Gloria Richardson, 91, on How Women Were Silenced at 1963 March on Washington". Democracy Now!. August 27, 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2017.
  10. ^ Ransby, p. 314.
  11. ^ Journal of Black Studies


Further reading[edit]

Scholarly monographs[edit]

Journal articles[edit]

  • Cook, Melanie B. (1988). "Gloria Richardson: Her Life and Work in SNCC". Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, Supplement: 51–53.
  • Foeman, Anita K. (May 1996). "Gloria Richardson: Breaking the Mold". Journal of Black Studies. 26 (5, Special Issue: The Voices of African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement): 604–615. doi:10.1177/002193479602600506.
  • Millner, Sandra Y. (July 1996). "Recasting Civil Rights Leadership: Gloria Richardson and the Cambridge Movement". Journal of Black Studies. 26 (6): 668–687. doi:10.1177/002193479602600602.
  • Richardson, Gloria (Winter 1964). "Freedom—Here and Now". Freedomways. 4: 32–34.
  • Szabo, Peter S. (Fall 1994). "An Interview with Gloria Richardson Dandridge" (PDF). Maryland Historical Magazine. 89: 347–358.

Dissertations and theses[edit]

  • Fitzgerald, Joseph R. (2005). Days of Wine and Roses: The Life of Gloria Richardson (Ph.D.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Temple University. OCLC 213097799.
  • Trever, Edward K. (1994). Gloria Richardson and the Cambridge Civil Rights Movement, 1962-1964 (M.A. thesis). Morgan State University. OCLC 32190676.

Non-academic works[edit]

External links[edit]