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"As Tough As They Come"

Updated: Feb 26, 2019

“We can’t deal with her, we can’t deal with out her,” was a phrase bemoaned by a white Citizen’s Council spokesman in reference to Gloria Richardson.

Gloria Richardson was a mother, an organizer, a student, and an activist. Born in Baltimore, Maryland she was born into a family with a rich history of local activism.  He family owned grocery stores in the famous Cambridge Second Ward in Maryland. Her father was committed to helping poor blacks and alleviating the turmoil that oppression caused the neighborhood they called home.  

In 1938, Richardson’s activist career began as a student at Howard University. It was there she became committed to the cause of ensuring the rights of blacks, not only in the face of overt racism, but more covert forms of racism like access to medical care. After graduating form Howard, she worked for the federal government during World War II. After the war, Dandridge returned home to Cambridge, started a family and became Gloria Richardson

It was in 1962 that Richardson founded CNAC- the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee after seeing her daughter, Donna, join SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), and started the first push for civil rights outside of deep south. Through CNAC, the movement advocated not only for desegregation, but economic rights. Despite her family’s affluency, she understood the economic hardships placed upon those in her community. She understood that the unemployment rate in Cambridge was disproportionately higher than the white unemployment rate and how this devastated the community.

Despite Richardson’s constant activism and advocacy, Richardson’s approach and demeanor intimidated other leaders in the movement. She often crossed paths with Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, and neither man cared for her. Because Gloria would allow her protestors to fight back if provoked, King disagreed with her strategies. Meanwhile, X had a similar approach to activism, but disliked her demeanor.  

Richardson became somew Want to add a caption to this image? Click the Settings icon. hat of a radical figure during the civil rights movement. She was outspoken, a rarity for a woman, especially a black woman, she fought back against the racism of cops and she led an entire organization, localized to her community. She believed that “all of us, in Cambridge and throughout America will have to sacrifice and risk our personal lives and future in a nonviolent battle that could turn into civil war. For now, negroes throughout the nation ow it to themselves sand to their Country to have Feedom, all of it, here and now!”

Her words still ring true today. As mass incarceration continues throughout America and everyday, it seems like another African American is gunned down in the streets, we still need to continue the fight for civil rights and for freedom. Gloria Richardson teaches us that is always worth fighting for what is right, even if they label you a radical.

One of my favorite quotes is “Good women rarely make history.” Gloria Richardson was never labelled a "good woman," but she has certainly made history.