Civil rights activist Gloria Richardson dies

Civil rights activist Gloria Richardson, who helped lead Maryland’s sweeping grassroots movement of sit-ins and protests aiming to desegregate businesses and local communities, died Thursday at the age of 99. 

Richardson’s granddaughter, Tya Young, told The Associated Press that she passed away in her sleep in New York City.

The Baltimore native, who attracted praise after she was captured in a photograph pushing away the bayonet of a National Guardsmen, helped organize and lead the Cambridge Movement in Cambridge, Md. on the Eastern Shore.  

Young explained to the AP that while her grandmother was not one of the most well-known leaders of the civil rights era, the activist did not participate in sit-ins at restaurants, bowling alleys and movie theaters for recognition from others. 

“She did it because it needed to be done,” Young said. “She was born a leader.” 

Richardson, who began studying at Howard University in Washington, D.C. at the age of 16, later joined the board of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee based in Atlanta, and took her resolve for civil rights to Cambridge, according to the AP. 

In 1963, Cambridge’s then-Mayor Calvin Mowbray called on Richardson to suspend demonstrations after some peaceful sit-ins began to turn violent in exchange for police ending their arrests of Black protesters. 

However, Richardson refused, and eventually met with U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy to develop was has now become known as the “Treaty of Cambridge,” establishing equal access to public services and accommodations in return for suspended demonstrations, according to the AP. 

Richardson continued to lead protests, however, until the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

Joseph Fitzgerald, who wrote a 2018 biography on Richardson, told the AP, “I say that the Cambridge Movement was the soil in which Richardson planted a seed of Black power and nurtured its growth.” 

“Everything that the Black Lives Matter movement is working at right now is a continuation of what the Cambridge Movement was doing,” he added. 

The biographer continued his praise for Richardson on Twitter after the news of her death, writing, “All of us live in a better nation because of her human rights activism.” 

Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) also issued praise for Richardson in a Friday tweet, writing, “Tonight we mourn the loss of a great Marylander and crusader for change.” 

“A fearless force in fighting racism and segregation, her acts of ‘good trouble’ helped lead to the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” he said. “She was moral courage in action. We are all the better for it.”

Tags Chris Van Hollen Civil Rights Act Civil rights movement good trouble Maryland sit-in The Associated Press
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