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Gloria St. Clair Hayes Richardson

Gloria St. Clair Hayes Richardson (May 6, 1922– )

Leader of the Cambridge Movement

During Black History Month 2014, the Center for the Church and the Black Experience is honoring faithful Black women freedom fighters. Today we honor Gloria St. Clair Hayes Richardson.

richardsonGloria Richardson was an outspoken leader during the fight to overturn the Jim Crow laws in Cambridge, MD during the early 1960s.  She incorporated armed self-defense tactics that inspired the more militant factions of the Black Power Movement.  A native of Baltimore, MD, she moved with her family to Cambridge, her mother’s home town, during the Great Depression.  Mrs. Richardson earned a sociology degree in 1942 from Howard University and worked briefly as a civil servant based in Washington, DC.  She returned to Cambridge and unsuccessfully sought a job in social work.  In 1948, she married a local school teacher, Harry Richardson, and for the next thirteen years, she was a mother and homemaker.
After her divorce from Mr. Richardson, a freedom ride came to Cambridge in 1961.  Subsequently, she and her daughter joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).[1]  Though she disagreed with the concept of non-violence, a year later, Mrs. Richardson organized the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC), the first adult-led affiliate.  The group initially used sit-ins to desegregate segregated restaurants, bowling alleys, and movie theatres, but later Mrs. Richardson worked more aggressively to change the chronic low wages, high unemployment and low voter registration numbers in the city.  Because CNAC’s confrontations were more violent, the Governor called in the National Guard in the summer of 1963, placing the city under martial law.  U. S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy brokered an agreement between CNAC and Cambridge’s white politicians, resulting in the Treaty of Cambridge that desegregated key public facilities and institutions.  
Mrs. Richardson was recognized as one of six “Negro Women Fighters for Freedom” during the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  She was also scheduled to make remarks, but the microphone was taken from her immediately after she greeted the audience.  In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of the March, she spoke out about the sexism she and other female participants encountered in the Movement.  

In 1964, Mrs. Richardson resigned from CNAC and moved to New York, where she remained active in other civil rights organizations.

1 The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), founded in April 1960, did civil rights field work across the South by participated in Freedom Rides and sit-ins and organizing voter registration drives.


Compiled by Rhonda K. Craven

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