Gloria Richardson was a civil rights leader in Maryland who led a series of protests in the Eastern Shore region. The Cambridge Movement was one of the more violent protests of the ’60’s, ignited by economic and racial inequality.
The future activist was born Gloria St. Clair Hayes on May 6, 1922 in Baltimore. Her family relocated to the city of Cambridge where they owned a successful hardware store and held positions on the City Council board. At 16, Richardson entered Howard University graduating with a degree in sociology in 1942.
Cambridge city officials refused to hire Black social workers, so Richardson, who was married at the time, focused on raising her children and being a housewife. Her foray into activism happened after her teenage daughter, Donna, joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Richardson began organizing with the SNCC, forming the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee and becoming the Cambridge Movement’s leader. According to some accounts, the CNAC was the only adult-led SNCC group at the height of the civil rights movement.
Based on her own struggles, Richardson strongly empathized with those struggling to find employment. She also fought for equality across the board for the city’s poor Black population. Although Richardson initially embraced the tenets of non-violence, her feelings changed just ahead of her retirement from the movement. Because of this, clashes with Cambridge Movement protesters and police routinely became violent. In 1963, the Maryland National Guard was called in to quell the situation.
Richardson’s final protest occurred in May 1964 when racist Alabama Gov. George Wallace visited the town. Two months later, the National Guard finally ended their occupation of Cambridge, the same month the Civil Rights Act went into effect.
Richardson, who had remarried and became Gloria Richardson Dandridge, left the movement that year and relocated to New York. She has largely kept out of the public spotlight, although she has granted some interviews in recent times.