Saturday, April 16, 2011

Gloria Richardson-Dandridge

Gloria Richardson-Dandridge was born in 1922 and raised in a prominent wealthy black family in Cambridge, MD. Her grandfather owned a grocer, butcher shop and a funeral parlor and did very well. He was the only black member of city counsel at the time. Gloria attended Howard U. at 16, graduating at 20 w/ a degree in sociology. Despite her grandfather's connections, the MD Dpt. of Soc. Svcs. was not hiring blacks as social workers in those days so Gloria married and raised a family.

When the Freedom Riders came to town in 1962, Gloria's teenaged daughter, Donna, became involved in civil rights movement. Gloria joined other parents and created the 1st and only adult led SNCC affiliate in civil rights history, Cambridge Non-violent Action Committee (CNAC). They enlarged the scope of black American grievances to include housing and employment discrimination and inadequate health care. Gloria was asked to lead CNAC and agreed, feeling that this was a way she could give back to the black community who had given so much to her family by patronizing her family's businesses.

Gloria had been raised to stand up for herself and fight for what she believed in. As she became more radicalized about the civil rights movement she went to hear Malcolm X speak. She met with him and began collaborating with him and Lawrence Landry to build a new coalition to counteract the "paralyzing" effects some more passive black organizations were having on the Black liberation movement. Led by her, CNAC refused to commit to non-violence and their protests and counter-protests became ever more confrontational and they fought back. This eventually led the Governor of MD to send in the MD National Guard. CNAC didn't let up and the town was effectively under martial law for about a year.

When the black community was shot up during a drive-by, the community armed itself and when the white perpetrators returned a gun battle ensued. It turned out one of the whites was a National
Guardsman who was later court martialed. The famous photograph I posted shows Gloria, fearlessly, ferociously, pushing the barrel of a riffle away which had been pointed directly at her by a National Guardsman. The protests in Cambridge drew huge media attention. Attny General Robert Kennedy met with Gloria and tried unsuccessfully to broker a deal between black and white political leaders. Kennedy even offered her a job which she considered a bribe. Gloria wouldn't compromise. There was right, and then there was settling. Gloria wasn't one for settling. "I know I was one of the few women to lead a movement like that, but I don't think of it in terms of being a woman. I think of it in tems of being a person. And what we did wasn't liberal or conservative, it was just right. But I know they think a woman shouldn't be doing what I did. They also didn't like it because we were demanding and not asking. That wasn't ladylike."

After 2 exhaustive years of leading constant non-stop demonstrations, Gloria resigned her position, remarried and moved to New York for a more peaceful lifestyle. She continued to be involved with civil rights issues, but was shunned by the mainstream passive civil rights organizations. Currently, she works in the City's Department for the Aging. She is active as a labor union delegate.

From the book Generation on fire: voices of protest from the 1960s : an oral history By Jeff Kisseloff - the chapter about Gloria Richardson-Dandridge p 51-63 (a great read)​oks?id=05uJSLy351MC&pg=PT6​3&lpg=PT63&dq=gloria+ric#v​=onepage&q&f=false

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