Civil rights leader Glo­ria Richard­son Dan­dridge gives oral his­tory

Dorchester Star - - News - Fol­low Car­o­line/Dorch­ester Edi­tor Dustin Holt on Twit­ter @ Dustin_S­tarDem.

ours to make bet­ter through the ef­forts of pos­i­tive think­ing peo­ple, which in­cludes many peo­ple here to­day who have that vi­sion to step out and do the things that Dion (Banks) and Kisha (Pet­ti­co­las) are do­ing.”

Meekins said the mu­rals also will be an eco­nomic tool. “As peo­ple come east­bound, you can­not help but see this beau­ti­ful mas­ter­piece,” he said. “It will cap­ture peo­ple’s at­ten­tion. My hope is peo­ple will stop and be cu­ri­ous with what they see, and they will want to visit Cam­bridge and Dorch­ester County.

“My hope is it will en­cour­age in­vestors to want to in­vest in the city of Cam­bridge and the county, es­pe­cially to re­vi­tal­ize Pine Street and make that the vi­brant place I’ve know it to be over the years,” he said. “My heart bleeds for my for­mer stu­dent Amanda. She has guts. She took risks. The only fear we have? An­swer that for me.”

The crowd re­sponded with “Fear it­self.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the Re­flec­tions on Pine events, visit Re­flec­tion­

The mu­ral was funded through a grant from the Mary­land Her­itage Ar­eas Au­thor­ity and the Fed­eral High­way Ad­min­is­tra­tion, and is one of a se­ries of mu­rals through­out Dorch­ester County that are part of the Ch­e­sa­peake Coun­try Mu­ral Trail. Find out more about all the mu­rals at­ralTrail.

— The four-day “Re­flec­tions on Pine” week­end in Cam­bridge be­gan with oral his­tory pre­sented by civil rights cham­pion Glo­ria Richard­son Dan­dridge on Thurs­day, July 20.

Richard­son Dan­dridge shared sto­ries of her time in Cam­bridge in the early 1960s, fight­ing in the civil rights move­ment with the Cam­bridge Non­vi­o­lent Ac­tion Com­mit­tee (CNAC) and the Stu­dent Non­vi­o­lent Co­or­di­nat­ing Com­mit­tee (SNCC). Many of the things she shared were new knowl­edge to the crowd.

“Peo­ple are go­ing to want to tell our story. They don’t know our story like we know our story,” said event co-or­ga­nizer Kisha Pet­ti­co­las. “We are cap­tur­ing this mo­ment to tell our story, foster heal­ing, to give every­body an op­por­tu­nity to be heard, and to cel­e­brate our his­tory on Pine Street. That is the pur­pose of this week­end. We are hon­ored that Miss Glo­ria has de­cided to do this talk.” Grow­ing Up in Cam­bridge

Richard­son Dan­dridge was born Glo­ria St. Clair on May 6, 1922, in Bal­ti­more. Her fam­ily moved to Cam­bridge when she was a young girl. Her fam­ily owned and op­er­ated a drug­store.

“As I grew up, I can’t re­mem­ber, but I don’t think we talked about racism in my house,” she said. “In the sec­ond ward, I do know that I knew where I wasn’t sup­posed to cross on Race Street.”

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing from high school, Richard­son Dan­dridge went on to earn her bach­e­lor’s de­gree in so­ci­ol­ogy from Howard Uni­ver­sity. She was un­able to se­cure em­ploy­ment upon re­turn­ing to Cam­bridge, be­cause of her race, and thus fo­cused on be­ing a wife and mother.

“Cam­bridge on the East­ern Shore was dif­fer­ent from the rest of the South. We were all in one place, in one ward. Peo­ple over gen­er­a­tions, since the 1800s, had been there,” said Richard­son Dan­dridge. “I think that made a bond for when things came along later. I think, be­cause we were all in one place, in one ward, it made us more co­he­sive.” The Be­gin­ning of CNAC

Richard­son Dan­dridge ex­plained that the move­ment in Cam­bridge re­ally be­gan with the youth. She was in­spired by her daugh­ter Donna’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the move­ment.

“Peo­ple to­day think every­body was an adult,” she said.

Teenagers, high school and col­lege stu­dents were ar­rested and beaten, by towns­peo­ple and the po­lice, for demon­strat­ing in the streets. In re­sponse to that in­ci­dent, Richard­son Dan­dridge helped or­ga­nize CNAC, the first adult-led af­fil­i­ate of SNCC.

A sur­vey was one of the first things CNAC did, ac­cord­ing to Richard­son Dan­dridge. She said that the young peo­ple in­volved would go around town on the week­ends to sur­vey res­i­dents about what their true con­cerns were.

“We weren’t re­ally that con­cerned about go­ing in to the soda foun­tains and places,” she said.

The true con­cerns were hous­ing, de­seg­re­ga­tion of schools, em­ploy­ment, and sub­ur­ban re­newal.

CNAC’s sur­vey was an­a­lyzed by white stu­dents from Swarth­more Col­lege. One of the most strik­ing pieces of data that emerged was an as­tro­nom­i­cal un­em­ploy­ment rate of around 70 per­cent for African-Amer­i­cans, ac­cord­ing to Richard­son Dan­dridge. The most re­cent cen­sus at the time placed the over­all un­em­ploy­ment rate in Cam­bridge at only 9 per­cent.

Richard­son Dan­dridge said that when the Phillips Pack­ing Com­pany col­lapsed, most African-Amer­i­cans were put out of work, be­cause so many of them held la­bor­ing jobs at the fac­tory.

The CNAC sur­vey was given to then At­tor­ney

Gen­eral Robert Kennedy dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions for the Treaty of Cam­bridge. A Leader Emerges

It was clear through­out the evening that Richard­son Dan­dridge did not set out to be the face and voice of the move­ment in Cam­bridge, it was more a mat­ter of hap­pen­stance.

“The black busi­ness­men asked me if I would be the spokes­woman,” she said. “That was be­cause they thought that my fam­ily could sup­port me.” Robert Kennedy and the Treaty of Cam­bridge

Richard­son Dan­dridge said she and oth­ers on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of CNAC spent weeks in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ne­go­ti­at­ing the terms of the so-called Treaty of Cam­bridge.

“Peo­ple ac­tu­ally think that maybe I just did the whole ne­go­ti­a­tion my­self, but that was not true,” she said. “The ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of CNAC, they all went back and forth be­fore that day we made the ar­range­ments with Robert Kennedy.”

She elicited laughs from the crowd when she shared that the first time she went to meet with Kennedy, she thought he was the jan­i­tor be­cause of his plain clothes, and nearly walked right by him.

The treaty was one of the pieces that made the sit­u­a­tion in Cam­bridge stand out. In many places, the up­ris­ing of the Civil Rights Move­ment was quelled by ver­bal agree­ments and prom­ises. For Richard­son Dan­dridge and her fel­lows in Cam­bridge, that would not be enough.

“I told him, ‘They’re treat­ing us just like they treated you all as Ir­ish, when you came to this coun­try,’” she said. “That made him stop. Then we gave him the (CNAC) sur­vey re­port, and it went on from there. We thought that he would be the proper per­son be­cause, when his brother was run­ning for pres­i­dent, they said he could re­ally get nasty and push peo­ple around.” Pub­lic Ac­com­mo­da­tions As first shown in the CNAC sur­vey, pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions were not par­tic­u­larly at the

top of the list of con­cerns for African-Amer­i­cans in Cam­bridge.

“We’ve been here for gen­er­a­tions,” Richard­son Dan­dridge said of their think­ing. “Why should we vote on whether we can go into some lit­tle soda foun­tain?”

The group also knew that fed­eral leg­is­la­tion was ex­pected to ad­dress that is­sue soon, she said.

In speak­ing about a group photo at the sign­ing of the Treaty of Cam­bridge, Richard­son Dan­dridge said that the men urged her to change her stance on in­clud­ing mea­sures for pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tion.

“They were the ones that put the pub­lic ac­com­mo­da­tions in,” she said. “They came out at lunchtime and told me I put my­self out on a limb of a tree and was saw­ing it off.”

She re­fused to back down, how­ever, and con­tin­ued to fight for what the peo­ple of Cam­bridge truly wanted and were en­dan­ger­ing their lives to achieve. Women in the Move­ment

One of the ques­tions Richard­son Dan­dridge re­ceived dur­ing the ques­tion and an­swer por­tion of the evening was about the role of women in the move­ment.

“My first con­tact with some kind of group dis­tur­bance (by women) was when they were send­ing the Mary­land State troop­ers, shortly af­ter I was asked to be spokesper­son, march­ing through the sec­ond ward,” she said. “I was on the street. I went up there to see what was hap­pen­ing, and the men were hid­ing in the cor­ners, yelling to get off the street. I got half way down Pine Street, and there were about ten women cut­ting the tires of the po­lice cars.”

She said that men and women of the time did what they had to do, and the gen­der dis­tinc­tion was a fac­tor that peo­ple have be­gun to talk about more re­cently.

“If it’s your life, you have to give up all those lit­tle kind of things,” she said.

When asked why she thought the role of women has been buried in the nar­ra­tive over the course of the last fifty-plus years, she said, “That’s a con­trol mech­a­nism that so­ci­ety set up.” Gen­eral Gel­ston and the Na­tional Guard

Richard­son Dan­dridge spoke re­spect­fully of Gen­eral George Gel­ston of the Na­tional Guard. He was the leader of the Na­tional Guard in Cam­bridge through their oc­cu­pa­tion in the 1960s.

“I think Gel­ston was very fair to us,” she said. “He would lock you up, but I think he won over the black peo­ple in Cam­bridge, be­cause when he died, most peo­ple thought the gov­ern­ment had killed him, be­cause he had not done what the gov­ern­ment wanted.

“His first week there, the sher­iff had beat some­body that was ar­rested that was black. What he did was pulled out all the sher­iffs and all the po­lice to put his guard in there. He said he was not go­ing to have any more peo­ple be­ing beaten.”

She spoke also about the in­ci­dent that led to the fa­mous photo of her brush­ing off the gun of a guards­man in the street.

“I thought there were bul­lets fly­ing. We all tried to get out the door, like one of those old-time come­dies,” said Richard­son Dan­dridge. “When I got out there, there were lo­cal black folks out on the street. John Lewis was over there hav­ing a prayer cir­cle. I told him he had to leave be­cause if there were bul­lets, I wanted peo­ple to get out of the street and go hide some­where and fire back.”

The in­ci­dent was started when an African-Amer­i­can man walk­ing home from work was called the N-word by a guards­man. Ac­cord­ing to Richard­son Dan­dridge, the man was well ed­u­cated and smart, but had fallen into al­co­holism upon re­turn­ing to Cam­bridge and its eco­nomic cli­mate. She said he re­tal­i­ated at the deroga­tory re­mark, and that be­gan the in­ci­dent. Boy­cotting Race Street Re­tail

CNAC and Richard­son Dan­dridge quickly dis­cov­ered that it was quite easy to keep folks from shop­ping in the white busi­ness district on Race Street.

“Maybe we couldn’t cross Race Street, but it came to a point that Race Street couldn’t cross us,” said Richard­son. “You could put maybe just three or four peo­ple on the street, pick­et­ing, and the peo­ple across Race Street would be scared to come to those stores and shop, even though no­body was go­ing to do any­thing to them. So they stopped shop­ping where all the white busi­ness district was.

“That’s why the fam­i­lies went broke be­cause the re­tail stores were not sell­ing any­thing. It’s be­cause we found out that you could put three or four kids on the street with a sign, and that meant no­body would go and shop.”

Though Richard­son Dan­dridge was not liv­ing in Cam­bridge at the time of the fire on Pine Street, she said she feels that the boy­cott and in­volve­ment of the black busi­ness­men is what caused the fire com­pany to let busi­nesses burn.

“I re­ally think that dur­ing the Rap Brown, they say ri­ots, the in­ci­dent with Rap Brown, I think they let that place burn down be­cause they knew the black busi­ness­men in Cam­bridge were also sup­port­ing the boy­cott,” she said. “They were glad to see the stores and restau­rants and mo­tels and such, that the black peo­ple had built up, were burnt down.

“I think also why they let that place (Pine Street) burn down, is that the black busi­ness­men hired and paid for buses, the gaso­line, and the driv­ers to take peo­ple out to Sal­is­bury and Eas­ton to shop.” March on Wash­ing­ton

“Let’s be clear about the March on Wash­ing­ton,” Richard­son Dan­dridge said. “Martin and SNCC both had to fight like hell to get any­one to the March on Wash­ing­ton. That’s why Martin Luther King was the last per­son speak­ing on that stage.”

Richard­son Dan­dridge briefly de­scribed her ex­pe­ri­ence at the March on Wash­ing­ton. She said that the peo­ple she was de­pend­ing on for a ride were late pick­ing her up from the ho­tel, and when she got there, the women were then sep­a­rated from the men and di­rected to their own tent.

The ladies in the tent with Richard­son Dan­dridge, she said, ex­cused them­selves

to the re­stroom, and mean­while, she was do­ing an in­ter­view by satel­lite with press in Eng­land.

Fi­nally, some­one came to her in the tent and asked what she was do­ing there. When she said she was wait­ing for the other ladies to re­turn, she was in­formed that they were al­ready on the stage. She was led through the crowd and onto the stage in time to be rec­og­nized, but all she was al­lowed to say was ‘Hello.’ Dr. King’s Can­celled Visit to Cam­bridge

When the move­ment was be­gin­ning in Cam­bridge, it was sug­gested that the ac­tivists try to co­or­di­nate a visit from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“When we first started out, even be­fore I was sup­pos­edly spokesper­son of CNAC, we would have meet­ings, and once the SNCC peo­ple left, you know, you kind of won­der what’s next,” Richard­son Dan­dridge said. “We were at St. Luke’s Church, and the peo­ple down there said, ‘Well, let’s have Martin come in.’

“We were a lit­tle town that could prob­a­bly only raise $300. It would cost $3,000 and his cal­en­dar was full for the next two years. We didn’t want to wait two years. I think that was the best thing that hap­pened to us be­cause we had to find our way to do this, that, and the other our­selves.”

Richard­son Dan­dridge ex­plained that as the move­ment pro­gressed, Cam­bridge be­gan to be cov­ered more and more in the press. She said they were on TV every night, even in the North. They were in the New York Times, The Wash­ing­ton Post, and the Bal­ti­more Sun.

“It was at that point that Martin an­nounced he was com­ing in to see what was go­ing on in Cam­bridge,” she said. “So, there was enough unity among the 500-600 peo­ple here, they didn’t want him any­more. They had a press con­fer­ence and told him that if he came, we would meet him on the Chop­tank River Bridge and stop him. So he didn’t come.’

She con­tin­ued, “Of course,

at that time, he was young. He wasn’t the great icon that he is now. That’s ac­tu­ally what hap­pened in Selma. They made a mis­take in invit­ing him there, and now you don’t hear any­thing about the two years that peo­ple fought and suf­fered. SNCC had been there for three years.” Mal­com X

Richard­son Dan­dridge said that she agreed more with the views of Mal­colm X than with Dr. King.

“Peo­ple that used to live in Cam­bridge, younger peo­ple that had moved away, would come home and tell me about this guy named Mal­colm,” she said.

She said she did not think much about Mal­colm X un­til she heard him speak for the first time. She was in Detroit for a con­fer­ence, and was in­vited to a lo­cal church where he was speak­ing.

In try­ing to de­scribe the af­fect his mes­sage had, she was at a loss for words.

“What I felt then, and what I feel now, I think this coun­try killed him,” she said. “They couldn’t al­low him to go across this coun­try just talk­ing and ex­cit­ing peo­ple the way he could do that. And he was clean.”

Richard­son Dan­dridge was also hon­ored ear­lier this year when, in honor of Black His­tory Month, Lt. Gov. Boyd Ruther­ford pre­sented her with a procla­ma­tion, declar­ing Feb. 11 Glo­ria Richard­son Day in Mar yland.

The cer­e­mony was held at Bethel African Methodist Church in Cam­bridge, with Richard­son Dan­dridge par­tic­i­pat­ing via Skype.

“Mary­land rec­og­nizes the coura­geous lead­er­ship and com­mit­ment of Glo­ria H. Richard­son dur­ing the civil rights mo­ment of the 1960s,” Ruther­ford said. “Dur­ing a time of racial seg­re­ga­tion, Glo­ria H. Richard­son be­came one of the strong­est ad­vo­cates for eco­nomic rights, as well as de­seg­re­ga­tion. Mary­land is proud to join in hon­or­ing Glo­ria H. Richard­son for her con­tri­bu­tions in the fight to achieve racial equal­ity dur­ing a defin­ing era of our na­tion’s strug­gle for civil rights for all.”

This was the first time a liv­ing per­son has been hon­ored by the State of Mary­land with a day set aside for their mem­ory.

An­other mile­stone in Dorch­ester County this year was the open­ing of the Har­riet Tub­man Un­der­ground Rail­road Vis­i­tor Cen­ter in March.

Tub­man was born in Dorch­ester County and lived there as a slave un­til she was nearly 30 years old. She es­caped slav­ery in 1849, yet risked her life to re­turn to the East­ern Shore many times to help oth­ers in their jour­ney to free­dom. She helped about 70 slaves es­cape and led them north. Some went as far north as Canada.

The state park, lo­cated in Church Creek, is about 17 acres and fea­tures a 10,000-square foot Lead­er­ship in En­ergy and En­vi­ron­ment De­sign Sil­ver rated vis­i­tor cen­ter, legacy gar­den and an open-air pavil­ion with a stone fire­place.

“As a state and as a na­tion, we’ve come a long way since the days when Har­riet Tub­man walked these very lands. But here in Mary­land, we will never for­get that we owe much of that progress to trail­blaz­ers like Har­riet Tub­man, who paved the way for so many oth­ers,” Gov­er­nor Larry Ho­gan said.

“Re­flec­tions on Pine: Cam­bridge com­mem­o­rates civil rights, com­mu­nity & change” com­pounds on these two mo­men­tous oc­ca­sions that have al­ready hap­pened in 2017.

The East­ern Shore Net­work for Change (ESNC), along with its many com­mu­nity stake­hold­ers, com­mem­o­rated the Civil Rights Move­ment in Cam­bridge with the four-day se­ries of events from Thurs­day, July 20 through Sun­day, July 23.

East­ern Shore Net­work for Change was founded by Pet­ti­co­las and Dion Banks in 2012 with a mis­sion to raise aware­ness of is­sues in Dorch­ester County, Mary­land that dis­pro­por­tion­ately im­pact the African-Amer­i­can com­mu­nity, and to cre­atively work with the com­mu­nity to in­form, ed­u­cate, and foster change that leads to so­cial and eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment.

Ad­di­tional events that took place this week­end were a gala din­ner hon­or­ing Har­riet Tub­man, Glo­ria Richard­son Dan­dridge, Fred Jack­son and Vic­to­ria Jack­son-Stan­ley; a Com­mu­nity Con­ver­sa­tion on Race; a scenic bike ride; unity walk and a com­mu­nity church ser vice.

Dorch­ester County’s new­est mu­ral, which cel­e­brates Cam­bridge’s African-Amer­i­can his­tory, is at the cor­ner of Mary­land Ave. and U.S. Route 50 in Cam­bridge.

East­ern Shore Net­work for Change co-founder Dion Banks talks at the ded­i­ca­tion of Dorch­ester County’s new­est mu­ral, which cel­e­brates Cam­bridge’s African-Amer­i­can his­tory.

Greg Meekins, mem­ber of the Dorch­ester Elks Lodge 223 and Sail­winds Park Inc., talks at the ded­i­ca­tion of Dorch­ester County’s new­est mu­ral, which cel­e­brates Cam­bridge’s African-Amer­i­can his­tory.


Civil rights leader Glo­ria Richard­son Dan­dridge, cen­ter, re­ceives a print of the Cam­bridge mu­ral cel­e­brat­ing the city’s African-Amer­i­can his­tory dur­ing the Re­flec­tions on Pine Gala Fri­day, July 21, in Cam­bridge. Dan­dridge was pre­sented the mu­ral print by East­ern Shore Net­work for Change founders and “Re­flec­tions on Pine” or­ga­niz­ers Dion Banks and Kisha Pet­ti­co­las.

Civil rights leader Glo­ria Richard­son Dan­dridge, left, gives an oral his­tory Thurs­day, July 20, in Cam­bridge as part of the Re­flec­tion on Pine four-day event. Co-or­ga­nizer Kisha Pet­ti­co­las, right, was the night’s mod­er­a­tor.

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