Photo credits: The Timber Creek Talon and The Associated Press
Many national U.S. movements for Black Liberation have sent condolences to the family and friends of Civil Rights icon Sister Gloria Richardson.
Sister Richardson became our ancestor on Thursday, July 15, 2021. She was 99 years of age at her time of death. Ms. Richardson is perhaps best known for organizing and leading the 1962 Cambridge Movement on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. At that time, her mission was to desegregate local white-owned businesses in the area.
In 2018, Dr. Joseph R. Fitzgerald wrote a biography on her life and career titled, The Struggle is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation. Richardson was born Gloria St. Clair Hayes on May 6, 1922, in Cambridge, Maryland. She grew up in a community, which was not as badly infested with white racist terror groups like the Black Legion and Ku Klux Klan.
Her father, John Hayes, married Richardson’s mother, Mable St Clair, in the early 1900s. Mrs. St. Clair came from a wealthy family of well-to-do blacks who were free well before the Civil War. St. Clair’s family was successfully involved in the real estate business and grocery store ownership. The St. Clair Family also owned a mortuary.
One of Richardson’s maternal uncles was a prominent attorney. Her maternal grandfather was the first African American person to be elected to the City Council of Cambridge, Maryland. He assumed office in 1912 and remained on the city’s governing board of councilors until 1946. Richardson’s passion for activism on behalf of less fortunate Blacks was shaped by her family ties.
Her power and influence started to grow in the 1940s–around the time she returned to her hometown after finishing college at Howard University in Washington D.C. She married Mr. Harry Richardson. The young, vibrant college undergraduate degree-holder began a grassroots-level career in social justice and political activism.
Mr. and Mrs. Richardson’s marriage did not last, however.
But Gloria Richardson continued to work for her successful family’s businesses, raise her two daughters, and remain involved in the fight against racial injustice in her home state of Maryland. Richardson was an incredibly beautiful woman who was well-spoken and cultured. She was known to be very strong-willed and tackled injustice with aggressive activism.
The most career-defining photograph of Richardson shows her fearlessly pushing away the bayonet of a rotund, white, and angry National Guardsman during a protest. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Richardson’s granddaughter, Tya Young, said the civil rights pioneer died peacefully in her sleep and was not ill in any way prior to her death. Young also spoke to Richardson’s lifetime of honor and bravery.
“She [defied the National Guard] because it needed to be done, and she was born a leader,” Young told the Sun-Times.