Richardson, Gloria (1922—)
Richardson, Gloria (1922—)
African-American civil-rights activist . Name variations: Gloria St. Clair Hayes Richardson; Gloria Richardson Dandridge. Born Gloria St. Clair Hayes on May 6, 1922, in Baltimore, Maryland; daughter of John Edwards Hayes and Mabel Pauline (St. Clair) Hayes; granddaughter of Herbert Maynadier St. Clair;graduated from Howard University, 1942; married and divorced; married Frank Dandridge, in mid-1960s; children: (first marriage) one daughter, Donna.
Gloria Richardson stood at the forefront of the Cambridge Movement, which began in 1961 in Cambridge, Maryland, and peaked in 1963, in the wake of martial law, rioting, and federal intervention. Richardson, who was born in Baltimore on May 6, 1922, moved with her parents John Edwards Hayes and Mabel St. Clair Hayes to Cambridge when she was six years old. She graduated from Frederick Douglass High School (now Maces Lane High School) before entering Howard University, from which she graduated in 1942. Richardson's grandfather Herbert Maynadier St. Clair, who sat on the Cambridge City Council from 1912 until 1946, was only the second African-American to hold such a position in Cambridge, a city that historically was a large slave-trading site. Yet even before the Civil War, the town's population included hundreds of freed African-American citizens. Although the
free African-American population was enfranchised to vote as early as 1800, their interests and their causes remained totally unrealized because of racial bigotry. Richardson was aware that despite her grandfather's prominence in the city government, the St. Clair family, along with the rest of the African-American population, was treated as second-class citizenry because of segregationist policies held over from the days of slavery. Richardson blamed bigotry and segregation for many misfortunes suffered by her family and her African-American peers, including discrimination in education and job opportunities, ill health, and inadequate housing.
Richardson affiliated herself with the Cambridge Non-violent Action Committee (CNAC), and in June 1962 she assumed the position of co-chair of that group. During that same year, CNAC, with the help of the Northern Student Movement, initiated a program called Project Eastern Shore. The Eastern Shore activists initially made a push for more widespread African-American voter registration and then undertook an effort to oust the incumbent state senator, Frederick C. Malkus, and other segregationists who blocked the passage of statutes that would outlaw the practice of maintaining separate public facilities for African-Americans.
By the spring of 1963, the segregationist policies of Cambridge had worsened, and a series of demonstrations ensued under the organization and leadership of CNAC. Protests and demonstrations resulted in the arrests of 80 protesters during the month of March and 62 more on a single day in May, including Richardson, her mother, and her daughter. The extraordinary number of arrests in March alone resulted in the formation of a Committee on Interracial Understanding (CIU) to negotiate with the presiding judge on behalf of all of the protesters. The judge agreed to consider specific demands of Richardson's contingency with regard to desegregation, decent housing, police brutality, and other issues.
The arrested African-Americans were released, and the public demonstrations continued. To Richardson's credit, the protests proceeded peacefully. Despite the tension, the need for outside intervention never arose until May 31, when Richardson herself lost patience over the arrest of 15-year-old Dinez White (she had been kneeling in prayer and protest), who was subsequently refused reasonable bail. Richardson appealed to the federal government in Washington, D.C., specifically to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, for assistance with a mounting list of civil-right violations on the part of the Cambridge authorities. By June 10, when Dinez White and a 15-year-old boy were sentenced to open-ended terms in reform school, Cambridge erupted in wide-scale violence including shootings and arson. Bombs were discovered, and more African-Americans were arrested. Within three days, the minority districts of Cambridge were sealed off with roadblocks imposed by Maryland state troopers. The majority white population took to the streets in counter-protest, and state officials imposed martial law and called out the National Guard on June 14. With the minority protesters confined within certain areas of the city, Richardson attempted to recruit outside demonstrators from other communities, but her plan failed because the outsiders were rerouted by law enforcement and ushered away from the city. The confrontation escalated until July 10, when the National Guard troops pulled out of Cambridge. At that point, pandemonium broke loose. Two African-American citizens were beaten brutally, and the National Guard returned that same day. This time, the troops imposed even tighter curfews. Rioting and shooting were rampant. The troops resorted to throwing tear gas at the protesters. By evening, the situation had deteriorated significantly. Richardson was arrested a third time on July 15.
The demonstration ceased temporarily on July 16, when the city formed a biracial commission to negotiate an end to the protests. But on July 17, President John F. Kennedy publicly admonished the protesters for resorting to violence. Richardson took exception to the president's comments and sent a letter to Kennedy. In fear of a resurgence of violence, the Maryland Bar Association agreed to intervene but failed to bring the parties to the negotiation table. Richardson issued an ultimatum that the moratorium would end unless good-faith negotiations began by July 18 at 7 pm. A committee convened in Washington, and on July 23, President Kennedy, Mayor Calvin Mowbray of Cambridge, and Gloria Richardson signed the Treaty of Cambridge, against Richardson's personal predilection. Richardson later broke ranks with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) branch of Cambridge over specific details of the treaty.
The Cambridge Movement spearheaded by Gloria Richardson is recognized historically as the first grassroots civil-rights movement to erupt beyond the Deep South. Unlike predecessor movements, this social rebellion addressed specific issues, conditions, and policies, rather than vague complaints about civil rights. Richardson, who later moved to New York City and worked for the Department for the Aging there, is recognized for her crucial role in integrating the city of Cambridge.
Brock, Annette K. "Gloria Richardson and the Cambridge Movement" in Women in the Civil Rights Movement. Edited by Vicki L. Crawford, et al. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1993.
Smith, Jessie Carney, ed. Notable Black American Women. Detroit, MI: Gale Research, 1992.
The Ralph J. Bunche Oral History Collection at Howard University, Washington, D.C., includes a 1967 interview with Gloria Richardson.
Gloria Cooksey , freelance writer, Sacramento, California