Gloria Richardson

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Gloria Richardson
Gloria St. Clair Hayes

(1922-05-06) May 6, 1922 (age 98)
Known for Cambridge movement during 1960s 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 the early 1960s in Cambridge, Maryland, on the Eastern Shore. Recognized as a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement at the time, she was one of the signatories to "The Treaty of Cambridge", signed in July 1963 with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and state and local officials after the riot the month before.

Richardson was honored with five other women leaders by being seated on the stage at the August 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, but none were allowed to speak to the crowd. Later Richardson married again and moved to New York City, where she worked locally in Harlem on civil rights and economic development.

Early life and education

Gloria St. Clair Hayes was born in 1922 to John and Mable (née St. Clair) Hayes in Cambridge, Maryland, the county seat of Dorchester County. Her mother was part of the affluent St. Clair family, which owned and operated a successful grocery store and funeral home. They had been free people of color since before the Civil War, and also owned extensive rental property. One maternal uncle was a lawyer in Maryland. Her family was also involved in politics. Her maternal grandfather had served on the Cambridge City Council from 1912 to 1946, the first African American to be elected to this office. [1]

Black males had been able to vote in Maryland since emancipation after the Civil War. (Women were added when the constitutional amendment became effective in 1920.) African Americans were generally segregated into housing in one of five wards, the Second Ward. Within that ward, blacks had built up substantial religious and business communities. They still lived under Maryland state Jim Crow laws and customs in the city at large.

According to Richardson, she had an uncle who had graduated from Harvard Law School. He died in his early twenties in Cambridge because of segregation. He had contracted a serious illness and the white hospital refused to treat him. He died before he could reach a black hospital.[ citation needed]

Hayes earned a B.A. in sociology in 1942 from Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, DC. In college, she participated in her first acts of civil disobedience by picketing a segregated Woolworth store in the capital, where blacks were not allowed to have lunch at the in-store counter. People were surprised by her leadership and her status as a woman from an elite African-American family. They were used to dealing with poor black women who were less outspoken.[ citation needed]

Return to Cambridge

When Hayes returned to Cambridge after college, she married Richardson and began to explore civil rights. The city government hired black people as social workers only to serve black clients in the all-black ward. After another woman was chosen over Richardson for a social worker position in the "black" ward, she decided to focus on her family and civic work for several years. In an interview with Robert Penn Warren for the book Who Speaks for the Negro? (1965), Richardson said that in Cambridge, blacks were "the last hired and first fired," [2] a phrase applicable to minorities in other places as well.

Cambridge movement

In December 1961, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) sent Reginald Robinson and William Hansen to Cambridge to organize civil rights actions. SNCC had been contacted by activists in the city. The two young men started sit-ins in February to protest segregated facilities. They targeted segregated movie theaters, bowling alleys, and restaurants. Donna Richardson, Gloria's daughter, was among fellow students who supported the demonstrators. Richardson and Yolanda Sinclair, another mother of a protester, were among parents who wanted to show their support for these actions. [3]

In 1961, a Freedom Ride came to Cambridge. The black city council member had 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 rules.

In June 1962, Richardson was asked and helped organize the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC), the first adult-led affiliate of SNCC. She became its official spokesperson. [4] The organization had initially formed in March of that year. After CNAC canvassed African-American communities in a survey, they expanded the goals to work for economic equality: to improve housing, education, employment, and healthcare. Many blacks struggled with low wages or unemployment. [2]

Richardson said in a later interview on why she was committed to CNAC's leadership reflecting the community. "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]

In the summer of 1962, CNAC focused on voter registration and an effort to get out the vote. They wanted to replace state senator Frederick Malkus, who had opposed legislation that would have allowed additional industries into Dorchester County, Maryland. The lack of industrial jobs limited opportunities for the African-American community.

Richardson later recalled that she had been a rebellious person since childhood but also identified as an adult 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 sit-ins and civil unrest continued in 1963. After local officials appealed to the governor for help to control the protests, saying they were disrupting business, Governor J. Millard Tawes imposed martial law and a curfew in the city, and appealed to President John F. Kennedy to order in the National Guard. When President Kennedy demanded that locals stop their protests, Richardson responded that the president could go to hell. [7]

In June 1963 the Cambridge protests had attracted students and other activists from around the country. On June 11, white patrons at Dizzyland had attacked six white and black demonstrators conducting a sit-in there. General Gelston of the National Guard announced that he was changing the rules of martial law: he announced a curfew of 9 P.M. instead of 10, stores were to close at 2 P.M. instead of 9 P.M., firearms were banned, and automobile searches by police and National Guard were authorized.

At 8 P.M. that night 250 African Americans staged a "freedom walk" to the Dorchester County 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 whites drove in and started a gun fight with armed African Americans. State police used tear gas and guns to disperse the mob.

The federal government intervened in an effort to end the violence and protests. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and other Justice Department and housing officials brokered a five-point "Treaty of Cambridge", to include a statement for equal rights, that was signed in July. The Attorney General, representatives of the State Of Maryland, local black leadership-including Richardson, and elected Cambridge officials were all signatories.

By the autumn of 1963, black children in Cambridge were attending previously all-white schools, bus transportation was desegregated, the library and hospital were desegregated, and a black policeman on the force was promoted. In this period, Richardson rose to national prominence as a civil rights leader. [8] In August 1963 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. Like most of the other women that day, however, she was not permitted to address the crowd. (She said "hello" to the audience before the microphone was taken out of her hands and she was shown off.) [9]

In December 1963 Richardson attended a national meeting of SNCC leaders in Atlanta, where they discussed the future direction of the organization. Present were Bob Moses, Charles Sherrod, Frank Smith, John Lewis, Courtland Cox, Michael Thelwell, Stokely Carmichael, Jim Forman, Dottie Zellner, Ivanhoe Donaldson, Marion Barry, and Joyce Ladner, as well as staff and volunteers. Ella Baker and Howard Zinn led questioning to help the mostly young leaders work toward their vision for activism. Richardson inspired those seeking to radicalize SNCC, both in terms of her focus on economic security, and her challenging of nonviolent ideology: both sides had been armed in Cambridge in June 1963. In Atlanta they discussed and planned for an extended voting rights program to be conducted in the South the next year, an election year. [10]

In May 1964 Richardson led a march in Cambridge 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. In July 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the historic Civil Rights Act, officially prohibiting segregation in public facilities, and the National Guard was finally withdrawn from Cambridge.

Later life

A month later, Richardson left Cambridge for New York City. She married Frank Dandridge, a photographer she had become acquainted with during the demonstrations, and settled with him there. [8] While largely retiring from public life, she worked 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 had been passionate about 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, pp. 314-317.
  11. ^ Gil Noble, "Interview with Gloria Richardson Dandridge," Journal of Black Studies, 1982


Further reading

Scholarly monographs

Journal articles

  • 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. S2CID  145788465.
  • 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. S2CID  145480828.
  • 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

  • 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

External links