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Civil Rights Pioneer Gloria Richardson, 91, on How Women Were Silenced at 1963 March on Washington

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 11:43 By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Report

Media

Fifty years ago this week, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, A Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and other civil rights leaders spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But where were the female civil rights activists? At the historic march, only one woman spoke for just more than a minute — Daisy Bates of the NAACP. Today we are joined by civil rights pioneer Gloria Richardson, the co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland, which fought to desegregate public institutions like schools and hospitals. While Richardson was on the program for the March on Washington, when she stood to speak she only had a chance to say hello before the microphone was seized. Richardson is the subject of a pending biography by Joseph R. Fitzgerald, "The Struggle is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation." Richardson, 91, joins us to discuss the 1963 March on Washington and the censorship of women speakers; the Cambridge Movement to desegregate Maryland; her friendship with Malcolm X; and her assessment of President Obama and the civil rights struggle today.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: Today is the eve of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which brought hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital. It’s considered one of the most significant civil rights gatherings in history. Events marking the occasion are scheduled throughout the country Wednesday, including a speech by President Obama at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave his now famous "I Have a Dream" speech. King was joined by future congressman, John Lewis, union leader A. Philip Randolph, march organizer, Bayard Rustin Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, and others on the stage.

But where were the female speakers at the March on Washington? Included on the program to sing on August 28, 1963 were Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson, but the only woman scheduled to actually speak at the rally was Myrlie Evers, widow of assassinated NAACP field secretary, Medgar Evers. When she could not make it, organizers reportedly asked Daisy Bates to speak at her place. Bates was the former president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and also a longtime board member of the national NAACP.

In 1957, she helped to enforce the Supreme Court’s school desegregation rulings by working with a group of teenagers later known as the Little Rock 9. She helped recruit the 9 black teenagers and escorted them through irate mobs of white adults and into the first classes at Little Rock Central High School, a previously all white institution. As a result, Bates and her husband Lucious lost their business. She was Jailed, threatened and the Klu Klux Klan burned an eight foot cross on her lawn. This is her entire speech on August 28, 1963. 50 years ago, Wednesday.

DAISY BATES: Mr. Randolph, friends, the women of this country [Inaudible] our pledge to you, to Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins and all of you fighting for civil liberties—that we will join hands with you as women of this country. Rosa Gregg, Vice President; Dorothy Height, the National Council of Negro Women; and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; the Methodist Church Women, all the women pledge that we will join hands with you. We will kneel-in; we will sit-in until we can eat in any corner in the United States. We will walk until we are free, until we can walk to any school and take our children to any school in the United States. And we will sit-on and we will kneel-in and we will lie-in if necessary until every Negro in America can vote. This we pledge to the women of America.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Daisy Bates of the NAACP speaking at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She spoke for just over a minute. While many women played a key role in organizing the March and the civil rights struggle in general, they were largely unrepresented at the March. At first there were no women included in the day’s lineup of speakers, then Bates was added as part of a tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom. She is listed on the day’s official program along with Diane Nash, Mrs. Medgar Evers and Mrs. Herbert Lee, both wives of slain civil rights organizers as well as Rosa Parks and Gloria Richardson. Richardson was actually handed the microphone and managed to say hello to the crowd before it was snatched away from her. She was not allowed to finish her speech. Now 91 years old, Gloria Richardson was then Co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland, which was in the midst of a campaign to desegregate public institutions like schools and hospitals. She went on to be friends with Malcolm X and is the subject of a pending biography by Joseph R. Fitzgerald called "The Struggle is a Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation." Gloria Richardson, today, joins us on Democracy Now! Welcome to Democracy Now!

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you take us to that day, to August 28, 1963, how you were chosen to speak, even if in the end you only got to say hello?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: We were in Cambridge Maryland as a result of the Baltimore Route 40 uproar the year before when students came from the South and CORE to desegregate the restaurants on Route 40. They came down on the eastern shore of Maryland, and that is where I am from, there’s a — Chesapeake Bay divides us, and we’re over here, and it’s probably about — was then probably about like Mississippi. But, in the mean time, my cousin and uncle were doing the bail bond as they stopped off at towns chasing the governor of the state down to Crisfield, because he would not give on the Route 40 stuff.

On their way back, to go back to Baltimore, my cousin told them, this is a totally segregated town, why don’t you all stop off there? They dropped off two field secretaries from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. From there, although we lived in a segregated bubble, and a segregated ward, we had our own city council person and had been there for 40 or 50 years, who happened to be my grandfather. But, totally segregated. The schools, the hospitals — maternity wards. One bed for black women and if they needed that, then there were no beds. It was kind of calm, but when the CORE and the SNCC came in and had a rally, just hundreds of people out of that community went to the rally and from there, started the uproar that ended with the National Guard come in for 18 months. Also, that initially I had not been involved. I was just watching. It was my daughter and her friends that were doing the demonstrating. But eventually, the so-called black leadership and white leadership got together and said, well, we can’t make any decisions about — it was public accommodations then — about this until there is peace. Well, when we passed two, three, four months and the young people were started getting very kind of depressed, and the parents who back them went to SNCC and asked if we could have — form a group there because we were adults. And so, we were the first and I think the only adult group that SNCC had and we began organizing and they came back and then the whole town was involved.

I think because in July before the March, had signed a written agreement with Robert Kennedy and the Department of Justice in terms of five demands we had. Desegregate the hospital, of course desegregate the schools and the buses, provide new housing, and one or two other things, but that had come out of a survey we did. Swarthmore kids took that back their school and the Professors to the correlations. Public accommodations was the last thing on that list. Everything else, beginning from the top, was more important.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how did you go from that to the March on Washington?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: So, because of the National Guard and all the publicity, I have to say in the end, that ABC, NBC, those people were stationed around that town and it was so much — I mean, it was everything, gun fire, you know, Molotov cocktails. After the demonstrations, because the white folks in the town wanted to be sure all of this was stopped, and I think the leadership in the town, the aristocratic leadership, paid people to come in and create a disturbance. So, Cambridge was in the Washington, Burlin area was almost nightly on the news. I guess once Anna Arnold Hedgeman insisted on women being in there, that had to be one of the people. And I understand there was a whole argument whether I was SNCC or NAACP. We had long given up NAACP in that town because they were ineffective.

Then I was a coordinator for the Eastern shore to get the buses and people to go to the march. And about two weeks before the march they called and asked and I would have two minutes to speak and, please, dress up, don’t wear — jeans now — but dungarees. So, I went out and found a denim skirt. So, there may have been multiple things in terms of them taking the microphone away because, one, we were not the MLK model as we developed and we were not doing once a year speeches. It was a daily kind of thing for almost a year-and-a-half.

AMY GOODMAN: We were just showing a picture of you, a famous picture of you pushing the — right next to the bayonet of the National...

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, he was going to stab me, so I had to push it. But anyhow, and that came because we were not supposed to be demonstrating — out there to demonstrate, and we had been at a little shoeshine shop with General Gelston, with him trying to stop — tell us, no, and we’re trying to say, yes, we’re going to do it when a whole lot of — we thought they were bullets, I don’t know what he thought. He may have known what it was, but it happened to be tear gas. But, when we — I rushed out and all the people were in the street. Then this guy started coming toward me. I thought, he has got to be crazy. I don’t even know why I pushed the gun, but I know I was furious at that time.

AMY GOODMAN: But, so back to August 28. You are asked to speak. You all go on buses to Washington.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, We had hotel accommodations and they came and got me to take me to the March. I was late, but that wasn’t because of me — they took me to the tent. When I got to the tent, the women were all there. They got up after a while and said they were going to the ladies room and would be back. S,o I sat and waited for them to come back. In the meantime, I was doing some interviews. But then all of a sudden, Bayard Rustin popped up and said, what are you doing here sitting in a tent? I said, I am waiting — I explained to him I was waiting for them. Oh, no, he said, come, go with me. He took me through the crowd to the stage, and that’s when...

AMY GOODMAN: There you see Lena Horne?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Lena Horne and Josephine Baker.

AMY GOODMAN: The great singer.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes. I was like, oh, wow. And they said to me, they have taken your chair away. Well, it proved they had chairs I guess for everybody maybe that was named, with a banner across it. So, and asked me, you should raise Hell. I thought, no, I don’t have to do that. We’re out in the streets so I said to them, no, I see a lawyer back there and I have a problem, so I’m going to go back and talk with him. And so that’s essentially what happened. I think with Lena, and I can’t remember exactly how this happened, but she was taking Rosa Parks around to European satellite stations and saying this is the woman that started Montgomery. So, when I saw her doing that I joined her.

AMY GOODMAN: But, then this is amazing. Rosa Parks was there, but she was not asked to speak.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yeah, No.

AMY GOODMAN: Rosa Parks, who launched Dr. Martin Luther King in Montgomery.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: That’s right. And that’s why Lena was taking and saying this is the woman that... So I joined that little effort and went with them to two or three places and then back on the stage. I don’t think any of it really soaked into me until afterwards. And I must say, I probably would not even have gone that far to participate. I only found out in the last two or three weeks on the Internet that they had a separate place for, separate street for the women to march from. Then when I look at the pictures, it is totally man. And most of whom had not been out in those streets.

AMY GOODMAN: So your name is called to speak.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, they called the name and I went up. People kept saying, go up anyhow. So I went up. So, I said hello, and I, really, by that time, was so annoyed, I was going to tell them, you all just sit here until they pass that civil rights bill, even if it is a week from away. And I said, hello. I guess they were right.

AMY GOODMAN: And they pulled the mic from your mouth.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Oh yeah, they pulled it, but had one of the marshals. Then they came after —- I don’t think I heard Daisy Bates speak, but, they came and got me -—

AMY GOODMAN: With Lena Horne.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: And Lena Horne, and told us you all might get mobbed, or create a mob, so come on and go with me. We’re going to put you in a taxi and send you back to the hotel. So, we did that and we heard just part of Martin’s speech on the radio in the taxi. But in retrospect, I think it was because she was determined to see that Rosa Parks was recognized, and I had worn the denim skirt and hadn’t dressed up properly and was a woman and a series of things.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. Our guest is Gloria Richardson. She was on the stage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom when she was Co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland and she was slated to speak, only got out the word "hello" before the microphone was taken from her. When we come back, we will continue the discussion of the Civil Rights Movement at the time and also hear from Malcolm X when he recognized Gloria Richardson in his speech, his message to the grassroots. Stay with us.

MARIAN ANDERSON: [SINGING]

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Marian Anderson at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and, interestingly, a little footnote to that, it turns out the Justice Department had control of the microphone and if there was a call for insurrection, they were going to cut the mic and play a recording of not Marian Anderson, but Mahalia Jackson singing "He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands." Sort of gives a new meaning to "He’s Got the Whole World in HIs Hands." This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report and our guest for the hour is Gloria Richardson. Gloria Richardson who was on the program to speak on August 28, 1963. Only one woman addressed the crowd, was just over a minute. It was Daisy Bates of the NAACP. When Gloria Richardson got the mic, it was taken from her. But she was recognized as a civil rights pioneer around the country. I want to go to Malcolm X speaking in November 1963. This was less than three months after the March on Washington. He delivered his famous message to the grassroots at Northern Negro Grassroots Leadership Conference in Detroit. During the speech, Malcolm mentions Gloria Richardson, our guest today.

MALCOLM X: When Martin Luther King failed to desegregate Albany, Georgia, the Civil Rights struggle in America reached this low point. King became bankrupt almost as a leader, plus even financially, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was in financial trouble plus it was in trouble, period, with the people when they fail to desegregate Albany, Georgia. Other Negro civil rights leaders, of so-called national stature, became fallen idols. As they became fallen idols, began to lose the prestige and influence, local Negro leaders began to stir up the masses. In Cambridge, Maryland, Gloria Richardson; in Danville, Virginia, and other parts of the country, local leaders began to stir up our people at the grassroots level. This was never done by these Negroes, whom you recognize, of national stature. They controlled you, but they never incited you or excited you. They controlled you; they contained you; they kept you on the plantation.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Malcolm X delivering his message to the grassroots speech in November of 1963, less than three months after the March on Washington. In that same speech he goes on to criticize the "Big 6" the six leading civil rights organizers at the time. Martin Luther King, James Farmer, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young.

MALCOLM X: But the white man put the Big Six [at the] head of it; made them the march. They became the march. They took it over. And the first move they made after they took it over, they invited Walter Reuther, a white man; they invited a priest, a rabbi, and an old white preacher. Yes, an old white preacher. The same white element that put Kennedy in power — labor, the Catholics, the Jews, and liberal Protestants; [the] same clique that put Kennedy in power, joined the march on Washington.

It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What you do? You integrate it with cream; you make it weak. If you pour too much cream in, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it’ll put you to sleep. This is what they did with the march on Washington. They joined it. They didn’t integrate it; they infiltrated it. They joined it, became a part of it, took it over. And as they took it over, it lost its militancy. They ceased to be angry. They ceased to be hot. They ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march. It became a picnic, a circus. Nothing but a circus, with clowns and all. You had one right here in Detroit — I saw it on television — with clowns leading it, white clowns and black clowns. I know you don’t like what I’m saying, but I’m going to tell you anyway. ’Cause I can prove what I’m saying. If you think I’m telling you wrong, you bring me Martin Luther King and A. Philip Randolph and James Farmer and those other three, and see if they’ll deny it over a microphone. No, it was a sellout.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Malcolm X about three months after the March on Washington, speaking in Detroit. You were there at this speech.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Malcolm was at the — in Washington at the time of the speech. He did not go to the speech, but he went to Ozzie Davis’ plus room and said to him, I’m there if you need me.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, but they are rewriting history. I just saw on the Internet that some people from SNCC thinking he was standing outside of the room the night before, waiting, trying to get him to be able to speak, which was not true, because I was outside and he was not there doing that. And certainly that kind of speech would not have been participated in.

AMY GOODMAN: Gloria Richardson, talk about the differences. You were at the speech that Malcolm X gave in Detroit.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes. Well, there had been a grassroots conference that Reverend Franklin, who was at that time Aretha Franklin’s father, had organized for SCLC, because they wanted to move to the North, which I suppose also feeds into Malcolm part about they were losing their reputations and stuff.

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning move the movement to the North.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Move the SCLC. No, not the movement. Move the SCLC part of the movement to the North. I was at the conference. I was bored. But somebody there told me as I came out one of the workshops that, you are in the wrong place. You need to go over to Reverend Clege — and I had not heard of him before — Reverend Clege’s church. But when they said, and I think Malcolm is going to be there. So, I thought, I’ve never really have heard him speak nor met him, so I said, OK, fine. So, the people I were staying with took me over there. A man from Cambridge that had gone through medical school had a clinic in Detroit, very middle-class. And he took me and sat while Malcolm spoke. I think by the next morning, his whole head was turned around. I said, wait a minute, you have a different position over here. You need to calm down. But he made that speech and we talked some, and then we invited him to Cambridge.

AMY GOODMAN: You invited Malcolm X.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Malcolm X to Cambridge. But, he had gone to Europe and there was some confusion and, actually, I think it was that Louis Farrakhan, they said, they sent him a man from Washington and we were having this big demonstration and he was just horrible. We always thought of the Muslim people as being strong, as touch me I’ll fight and stuff, but the group there in Cambridge said, no, we don’t have any part in this. And when he gave his speech, you could just see people in the audience — we were supposed to be having a demonstration afterwards — going getting just, blah, what. But, Adam Clayton Powell did, but the very fact that he had mentioned Cambridge and that they knew that there was a connection there, that we could go into meetings and say, well, you either deal with us or you have Malcolm X come to town here, they would get just hysterical. The police chief said, oh, no. But, am I answering your question?

AMY GOODMAN: Yeah. Let me go to break and we’re going to come back and continue this discussion about the movement at the time and where it is today. We are talking to Gloria Richardson on the stage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland. She should have spoken at the march. She got a "hello" out before the microphone was taken. But, she was on the program. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report . We are putting the women back into that march today with Gloria Richardson now 91 years old, living here in New York City.

MAHALIA JACKSON: [SINGING]

AMY GOODMAN: "How I Got Over," sung by Mahalia Jackson at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I’m Amy Goodman, Host of _Democracy Now!, and our guest is Gloria Richardson. Gloria Richardson, who was on the stage — in fact, did you meet Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson? Did you hear...?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Mahalia Jackson because she wanted me to go with her to Baltimore. She was appearing somewhere the next night on stage. But, I couldn’t do that at that time.

AMY GOODMAN: It was Mahalia Jackson who got —

GLORIA RICHARDSON: It was Mahalia Jackson. But with Marian Anderson —

AMY GOODMAN: The opera singer.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: I had gone when I was in school in Washington when they were preventing her from singing, the DAR, and Eleanor Roosevelt —

AMY GOODMAN: This was Daughters for the American Revolution were preventing her from singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: I think she ended up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial because of Eleanor Roosevelt. And so I had been in school then and I had gone out there when that happened. And also my mother knew her because she was friends with her husband’s family.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn — before we turn to Ella Baker, who is a person a lot of young people haven’t heard of but you knew well, I want to get to John Lewis. Because John Lewis was forced to change his speech, the 13-term Congress member right now, he was at the time the chair of SNCC, only surviving speaker of the 1963 March, now Congress Member from Georgia. This is what he said at the original March.

JOHN LEWIS: We come here today with a great sense of misgiving. It is true that we support the administration’s Civil Rights Bill. We support it with great reservation, however. Unless title three is put in this bill, there’s nothing to protect the young children and old women who must face police dogs and fire hoses in the South while they engage in peaceful demonstration.

In its present form this bill will not protect the citizens of Danville, Virginia, who must live in constant fear of a police state. It will not protect the hundreds and thousands of people that have been arrested on trumped up charges. What about the three young men, SNCC field secretaries in America, Georgia, who face the death penalty for engaging in peaceful protest?

As it stands now, the voting section of this bill will not help the thousands of people who want to vote. It will not help the citizens of Mississippi, of Alabama and Georgia who are unqualified to vote for lack of sixth grade education. One man, one vote is the African cry. It is ours too. It must be ours.

AMY GOODMAN: That was John Lewis, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial. He was pressured to change his speech. Gloria Richardson, you try to help them out.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, when I got to —- finally got up to the stage, there were eight or nine SNCC people there and they told me what was going on and asked me if I would go back in there and help them fight to keep the speech as it was. And I said yes. And then I went -— tried to get inside the Lincoln Memorial and the guards there stopped me and said I couldn’t go in. So once again, there was a barrier put up. But, Foreman released I think the entire speech to the press and I think The Washington Post printed that the next day.

AMY GOODMAN: Back on Marian Anderson, just the particular facts of that story, she wanted to sing to an integrated audience at Constitutional Hall, Daughters of American Revolution didn’t let her, so Eleanor Roosevelt with FDR got her to sing at this open-air concert at the Lincoln Memorial, 75,000 people came, millions listened on the radio, she goes on to be the first black person, African-American or black overall, who sang at the Metropolitan Opera, the great opera singer Marian Anderson. Let’s talk now about Ella Baker and the significance of Ella Baker. She played a key role in some of the most influential organizations of the time, including the NAACP and Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference or SCLC, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. Here Ella Baker discusses how the formation of the SCLC came about.

ELLA BAKER: I think the basic why of SCLC, has to do with what had taken place in the 54 decision and the unthought of Montgomery bus boycott. But, before you can evaluate the bus boycott, you have to understand how it came about, and it didn’t come out of a vacuum. There were two people in Montgomery who had functions with the NAACP over the years, and they were Mrs. Rosa Parks and Ed — E.D. Nixon — not Ed. I don’t know what his name was but E.D. Nixon. But where did E.D. Nixon get his fire? He got his fire and sense of social action from being a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the struggle that it had waged over the years. So, when the Montgomery Bus Boycott, let’s call it, ended successfully, here you had a social phenomenon that had not taken place in history for those of us who were around at that time. Where hundreds of people and even thousands of people, just ordinary people had taken a position that put them in a very uncomfortable — or at least made life less comfortable for them, when they decided to walk rather than to ride the bus.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ella Baker. Tell us, Gloria Richardson, who Ella Baker was.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Ella Baker, although, I think a lot of people here, in the City do not know, Ella Baker was from New York City. But, she had been through a variety of organizations, the NAACP, SCLC, and then when those six students in North Carolina sat in and about two weeks later, college students had this huge conference of young people, and Mrs. Baker was there and in my mind, she was the one that set them free, because SCLC wanted them to be a youth component of SCLC and she said, no, you all go and do — make your own mistakes and do your own fight. And that is what they did, as an independent group of young students. Most people today, and when I go around — because we are older and whatnot, I think they don’t translate back into when these were high school and maybe one year of college, grammar school students out in the streets fighting for their civil rights. Mrs. Baker freed them to do that. That is also why — I don’t understand why John, now, left and clings to SCLC when she was trying to free that youth movement to go and do whatever, you know, wanted to do. But, she would come, and she would fly into Atlanta or fly wherever there was a crisis or they needed some advice, and she would come in at any time of the night. She was not based in Atlanta.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is the movement today? For example, were you invited to speak at the 50th anniversary function in Washington?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: [laughs] Oh, no. I just spoke to somebody the other day who had two invitations, but one they rescinded and now he didn’t know what
it was supposed to do–that was in Washington. No. I don’t think— I think Malcolm could make the same speech. I’m sure people would be horrified. I
think the people that went are ok. I’ve just seen something in the last day where there was a disconnect between the speeches and the energy and wishes of the crowd that is coming behind him, and I can’t — I just don’t understand because they said that the police went and took away from a group of people the signs that said "the new Jim Crow." That’s ridiculous in 2013. And then people like to strut around the street and say they have
a black president and he’s going to speak to {X}? It will be interesting to see what he says.

AMY GOODMAN:What is your assessment of President Obama?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Well, I think he’s a nice man, but nice men don’t make good presidents. I wasn’t particularly fond of John Kennedy. His brother, yes. He was hard-nosed. He knew what he had to do and he did it.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Kennedy.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, but I don’t think–part of it’s probably not his fault. He did not go to grammar school and high school here. He went to
upscale, royal private schools in Hawaii and Indonesia and then came to Columbia. I don’t think he’s really gone through the kinds of things that
small, little small black boys have to go through growing up into that kind of a position.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you think that determines his presidency today?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: I don’t think like — when he, on national TV said, with his two children standing beside him that there was no need for affirmative
action for them because they were smart. Affirmative action was never about people being smart. It was about people that were smart not being able to get into the system.

AMY GOODMAN: What about women? Fifty years ago where were women in the movement when your mic was being snatched?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Well, the same place now. Myrlie Evers spoke and then I saw her in another—

AMY GOODMAN: Myrlie Evers spoke at the 50th anniversary in March.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, and she spoke the other day. Then I saw her in another setting when she was explaining that she was very bitter about the first thing, I’m not sure why she was exactly because she has a foundation and stuff, I’m not sure she’s that pleased with this. But I guess, it was a little better.

AMY GOODMAN: Her message, this 50th anniversary, was that people should embrace the term "stand your ground," not the laws but take it back and say, "stand your ground." The idea that people should stand their ground. What? Not the laws.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: I understand what you mean.

AMY GOODMAN: She says people should take a stand today.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Oh, OK, but she didn’t use "stand your ground." Oh, no. I don’t think people understand. I think they’re waiting for somebody, some preacher to rise up in the middle and save them. I don’t think they understand that they can go out and make mistakes and do it themselves. That it has to be some special kind of person.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the message of the Cambridge movement that you came out of? I mean, you came out of Eastern Maryland. Eastern Maryland is where Frederick Douglass was born.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Oh yes, about five minutes from me and Harriet Tubman. Where, now, the hip-hop people have now put on a pornographic movie about
her. And this guy — I forgot his name, McBride or something, "The New York Times" is in there with his glowing two-page review of his book talking about Frederick Douglass was a drunk and John Brown was crazy. And isn’t that funny? So, I think now there is some kind of concerted effort in the cultural environment to make fun of anything that historically would give people any kind of courage or nerve or desire to fight. I don’t think it is
accidental.

AMY GOODMAN: The Cambridge movement was controversial, even fifty years ago. Maybe you’re saying part of why they were taking the mic from you. What was the message of the Cambridge movement? What was it you are doing in Maryland?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: We weren’t going to stop until we got it and if violence occurred and we would have to accept that.

AMY GOODMAN: Until you got what?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Until we got our agreement, which we did. There is — and amazingly after all of that fight with blacks against whites and whites against blacks, today, there is a black woman mayor, there is a black man that is head of the city Council, and another black man that is head of the Dorchester County Council. And while I wouldn’t say there is no racism in Cambridge, but they are now within that structure. And then because we got
rid of the restrictive housing, in order to get the new housing, then there were some people over the years that moved into what I’m calling white neighborhoods, maybe 99% white. Two of those neighborhoods that we couldn’t even walk in before, elected black representatives to the City Council. So there has been structurally, I think, some change. I think that is because the structural changes that were put in at that time.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, your role as a woman in the movement?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Oh, I didn’t have–yes, because I thought about that earlier–I did not have a problem with black men in Cambridge. It was five black men that came and asked me once my cousin decided it was a conflict of interest to be co-chair and provide the bail, then they asked me to do it. I think that’s because not only my family, but most of their families, had been in Dorchester County since maybe the late 1700s, whether they were poor or well to do or whatever. So, it was that kind of history I think that made them embrace me.

AMY GOODMAN: Gloria Richardson, I want to thank you very much for being with us, for honoring us with your presence. Gloria Richardson was on a stage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and slated to speak, co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee of Maryland.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

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Civil Rights Pioneer Gloria Richardson, 91, on How Women Were Silenced at 1963 March on Washington

Wednesday, 28 August 2013 11:43 By Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! | Video Report

Media

Fifty years ago this week, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, A Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and other civil rights leaders spoke at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But where were the female civil rights activists? At the historic march, only one woman spoke for just more than a minute — Daisy Bates of the NAACP. Today we are joined by civil rights pioneer Gloria Richardson, the co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland, which fought to desegregate public institutions like schools and hospitals. While Richardson was on the program for the March on Washington, when she stood to speak she only had a chance to say hello before the microphone was seized. Richardson is the subject of a pending biography by Joseph R. Fitzgerald, "The Struggle is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation." Richardson, 91, joins us to discuss the 1963 March on Washington and the censorship of women speakers; the Cambridge Movement to desegregate Maryland; her friendship with Malcolm X; and her assessment of President Obama and the civil rights struggle today.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: Today is the eve of the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which brought hundreds of thousands to the nation’s capital. It’s considered one of the most significant civil rights gatherings in history. Events marking the occasion are scheduled throughout the country Wednesday, including a speech by President Obama at the Lincoln Memorial where Dr. King gave his now famous "I Have a Dream" speech. King was joined by future congressman, John Lewis, union leader A. Philip Randolph, march organizer, Bayard Rustin Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, and others on the stage.

But where were the female speakers at the March on Washington? Included on the program to sing on August 28, 1963 were Mahalia Jackson and Marian Anderson, but the only woman scheduled to actually speak at the rally was Myrlie Evers, widow of assassinated NAACP field secretary, Medgar Evers. When she could not make it, organizers reportedly asked Daisy Bates to speak at her place. Bates was the former president of the Arkansas chapter of the NAACP and also a longtime board member of the national NAACP.

In 1957, she helped to enforce the Supreme Court’s school desegregation rulings by working with a group of teenagers later known as the Little Rock 9. She helped recruit the 9 black teenagers and escorted them through irate mobs of white adults and into the first classes at Little Rock Central High School, a previously all white institution. As a result, Bates and her husband Lucious lost their business. She was Jailed, threatened and the Klu Klux Klan burned an eight foot cross on her lawn. This is her entire speech on August 28, 1963. 50 years ago, Wednesday.

DAISY BATES: Mr. Randolph, friends, the women of this country [Inaudible] our pledge to you, to Martin Luther King, Roy Wilkins and all of you fighting for civil liberties—that we will join hands with you as women of this country. Rosa Gregg, Vice President; Dorothy Height, the National Council of Negro Women; and the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; the Methodist Church Women, all the women pledge that we will join hands with you. We will kneel-in; we will sit-in until we can eat in any corner in the United States. We will walk until we are free, until we can walk to any school and take our children to any school in the United States. And we will sit-on and we will kneel-in and we will lie-in if necessary until every Negro in America can vote. This we pledge to the women of America.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Daisy Bates of the NAACP speaking at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. She spoke for just over a minute. While many women played a key role in organizing the March and the civil rights struggle in general, they were largely unrepresented at the March. At first there were no women included in the day’s lineup of speakers, then Bates was added as part of a tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom. She is listed on the day’s official program along with Diane Nash, Mrs. Medgar Evers and Mrs. Herbert Lee, both wives of slain civil rights organizers as well as Rosa Parks and Gloria Richardson. Richardson was actually handed the microphone and managed to say hello to the crowd before it was snatched away from her. She was not allowed to finish her speech. Now 91 years old, Gloria Richardson was then Co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland, which was in the midst of a campaign to desegregate public institutions like schools and hospitals. She went on to be friends with Malcolm X and is the subject of a pending biography by Joseph R. Fitzgerald called "The Struggle is a Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation." Gloria Richardson, today, joins us on Democracy Now! Welcome to Democracy Now!

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Thank you very much.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you take us to that day, to August 28, 1963, how you were chosen to speak, even if in the end you only got to say hello?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: We were in Cambridge Maryland as a result of the Baltimore Route 40 uproar the year before when students came from the South and CORE to desegregate the restaurants on Route 40. They came down on the eastern shore of Maryland, and that is where I am from, there’s a — Chesapeake Bay divides us, and we’re over here, and it’s probably about — was then probably about like Mississippi. But, in the mean time, my cousin and uncle were doing the bail bond as they stopped off at towns chasing the governor of the state down to Crisfield, because he would not give on the Route 40 stuff.

On their way back, to go back to Baltimore, my cousin told them, this is a totally segregated town, why don’t you all stop off there? They dropped off two field secretaries from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. From there, although we lived in a segregated bubble, and a segregated ward, we had our own city council person and had been there for 40 or 50 years, who happened to be my grandfather. But, totally segregated. The schools, the hospitals — maternity wards. One bed for black women and if they needed that, then there were no beds. It was kind of calm, but when the CORE and the SNCC came in and had a rally, just hundreds of people out of that community went to the rally and from there, started the uproar that ended with the National Guard come in for 18 months. Also, that initially I had not been involved. I was just watching. It was my daughter and her friends that were doing the demonstrating. But eventually, the so-called black leadership and white leadership got together and said, well, we can’t make any decisions about — it was public accommodations then — about this until there is peace. Well, when we passed two, three, four months and the young people were started getting very kind of depressed, and the parents who back them went to SNCC and asked if we could have — form a group there because we were adults. And so, we were the first and I think the only adult group that SNCC had and we began organizing and they came back and then the whole town was involved.

I think because in July before the March, had signed a written agreement with Robert Kennedy and the Department of Justice in terms of five demands we had. Desegregate the hospital, of course desegregate the schools and the buses, provide new housing, and one or two other things, but that had come out of a survey we did. Swarthmore kids took that back their school and the Professors to the correlations. Public accommodations was the last thing on that list. Everything else, beginning from the top, was more important.

AMY GOODMAN: So, how did you go from that to the March on Washington?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: So, because of the National Guard and all the publicity, I have to say in the end, that ABC, NBC, those people were stationed around that town and it was so much — I mean, it was everything, gun fire, you know, Molotov cocktails. After the demonstrations, because the white folks in the town wanted to be sure all of this was stopped, and I think the leadership in the town, the aristocratic leadership, paid people to come in and create a disturbance. So, Cambridge was in the Washington, Burlin area was almost nightly on the news. I guess once Anna Arnold Hedgeman insisted on women being in there, that had to be one of the people. And I understand there was a whole argument whether I was SNCC or NAACP. We had long given up NAACP in that town because they were ineffective.

Then I was a coordinator for the Eastern shore to get the buses and people to go to the march. And about two weeks before the march they called and asked and I would have two minutes to speak and, please, dress up, don’t wear — jeans now — but dungarees. So, I went out and found a denim skirt. So, there may have been multiple things in terms of them taking the microphone away because, one, we were not the MLK model as we developed and we were not doing once a year speeches. It was a daily kind of thing for almost a year-and-a-half.

AMY GOODMAN: We were just showing a picture of you, a famous picture of you pushing the — right next to the bayonet of the National...

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, he was going to stab me, so I had to push it. But anyhow, and that came because we were not supposed to be demonstrating — out there to demonstrate, and we had been at a little shoeshine shop with General Gelston, with him trying to stop — tell us, no, and we’re trying to say, yes, we’re going to do it when a whole lot of — we thought they were bullets, I don’t know what he thought. He may have known what it was, but it happened to be tear gas. But, when we — I rushed out and all the people were in the street. Then this guy started coming toward me. I thought, he has got to be crazy. I don’t even know why I pushed the gun, but I know I was furious at that time.

AMY GOODMAN: But, so back to August 28. You are asked to speak. You all go on buses to Washington.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, We had hotel accommodations and they came and got me to take me to the March. I was late, but that wasn’t because of me — they took me to the tent. When I got to the tent, the women were all there. They got up after a while and said they were going to the ladies room and would be back. S,o I sat and waited for them to come back. In the meantime, I was doing some interviews. But then all of a sudden, Bayard Rustin popped up and said, what are you doing here sitting in a tent? I said, I am waiting — I explained to him I was waiting for them. Oh, no, he said, come, go with me. He took me through the crowd to the stage, and that’s when...

AMY GOODMAN: There you see Lena Horne?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Lena Horne and Josephine Baker.

AMY GOODMAN: The great singer.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes. I was like, oh, wow. And they said to me, they have taken your chair away. Well, it proved they had chairs I guess for everybody maybe that was named, with a banner across it. So, and asked me, you should raise Hell. I thought, no, I don’t have to do that. We’re out in the streets so I said to them, no, I see a lawyer back there and I have a problem, so I’m going to go back and talk with him. And so that’s essentially what happened. I think with Lena, and I can’t remember exactly how this happened, but she was taking Rosa Parks around to European satellite stations and saying this is the woman that started Montgomery. So, when I saw her doing that I joined her.

AMY GOODMAN: But, then this is amazing. Rosa Parks was there, but she was not asked to speak.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yeah, No.

AMY GOODMAN: Rosa Parks, who launched Dr. Martin Luther King in Montgomery.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: That’s right. And that’s why Lena was taking and saying this is the woman that... So I joined that little effort and went with them to two or three places and then back on the stage. I don’t think any of it really soaked into me until afterwards. And I must say, I probably would not even have gone that far to participate. I only found out in the last two or three weeks on the Internet that they had a separate place for, separate street for the women to march from. Then when I look at the pictures, it is totally man. And most of whom had not been out in those streets.

AMY GOODMAN: So your name is called to speak.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, they called the name and I went up. People kept saying, go up anyhow. So I went up. So, I said hello, and I, really, by that time, was so annoyed, I was going to tell them, you all just sit here until they pass that civil rights bill, even if it is a week from away. And I said, hello. I guess they were right.

AMY GOODMAN: And they pulled the mic from your mouth.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Oh yeah, they pulled it, but had one of the marshals. Then they came after —- I don’t think I heard Daisy Bates speak, but, they came and got me -—

AMY GOODMAN: With Lena Horne.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: And Lena Horne, and told us you all might get mobbed, or create a mob, so come on and go with me. We’re going to put you in a taxi and send you back to the hotel. So, we did that and we heard just part of Martin’s speech on the radio in the taxi. But in retrospect, I think it was because she was determined to see that Rosa Parks was recognized, and I had worn the denim skirt and hadn’t dressed up properly and was a woman and a series of things.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and then come back to this discussion. Our guest is Gloria Richardson. She was on the stage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom when she was Co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland and she was slated to speak, only got out the word "hello" before the microphone was taken from her. When we come back, we will continue the discussion of the Civil Rights Movement at the time and also hear from Malcolm X when he recognized Gloria Richardson in his speech, his message to the grassroots. Stay with us.

MARIAN ANDERSON: [SINGING]

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Marian Anderson at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and, interestingly, a little footnote to that, it turns out the Justice Department had control of the microphone and if there was a call for insurrection, they were going to cut the mic and play a recording of not Marian Anderson, but Mahalia Jackson singing "He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands." Sort of gives a new meaning to "He’s Got the Whole World in HIs Hands." This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report and our guest for the hour is Gloria Richardson. Gloria Richardson who was on the program to speak on August 28, 1963. Only one woman addressed the crowd, was just over a minute. It was Daisy Bates of the NAACP. When Gloria Richardson got the mic, it was taken from her. But she was recognized as a civil rights pioneer around the country. I want to go to Malcolm X speaking in November 1963. This was less than three months after the March on Washington. He delivered his famous message to the grassroots at Northern Negro Grassroots Leadership Conference in Detroit. During the speech, Malcolm mentions Gloria Richardson, our guest today.

MALCOLM X: When Martin Luther King failed to desegregate Albany, Georgia, the Civil Rights struggle in America reached this low point. King became bankrupt almost as a leader, plus even financially, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was in financial trouble plus it was in trouble, period, with the people when they fail to desegregate Albany, Georgia. Other Negro civil rights leaders, of so-called national stature, became fallen idols. As they became fallen idols, began to lose the prestige and influence, local Negro leaders began to stir up the masses. In Cambridge, Maryland, Gloria Richardson; in Danville, Virginia, and other parts of the country, local leaders began to stir up our people at the grassroots level. This was never done by these Negroes, whom you recognize, of national stature. They controlled you, but they never incited you or excited you. They controlled you; they contained you; they kept you on the plantation.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Malcolm X delivering his message to the grassroots speech in November of 1963, less than three months after the March on Washington. In that same speech he goes on to criticize the "Big 6" the six leading civil rights organizers at the time. Martin Luther King, James Farmer, John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young.

MALCOLM X: But the white man put the Big Six [at the] head of it; made them the march. They became the march. They took it over. And the first move they made after they took it over, they invited Walter Reuther, a white man; they invited a priest, a rabbi, and an old white preacher. Yes, an old white preacher. The same white element that put Kennedy in power — labor, the Catholics, the Jews, and liberal Protestants; [the] same clique that put Kennedy in power, joined the march on Washington.

It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What you do? You integrate it with cream; you make it weak. If you pour too much cream in, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it’ll put you to sleep. This is what they did with the march on Washington. They joined it. They didn’t integrate it; they infiltrated it. They joined it, became a part of it, took it over. And as they took it over, it lost its militancy. They ceased to be angry. They ceased to be hot. They ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march. It became a picnic, a circus. Nothing but a circus, with clowns and all. You had one right here in Detroit — I saw it on television — with clowns leading it, white clowns and black clowns. I know you don’t like what I’m saying, but I’m going to tell you anyway. ’Cause I can prove what I’m saying. If you think I’m telling you wrong, you bring me Martin Luther King and A. Philip Randolph and James Farmer and those other three, and see if they’ll deny it over a microphone. No, it was a sellout.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Malcolm X about three months after the March on Washington, speaking in Detroit. You were there at this speech.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Malcolm was at the — in Washington at the time of the speech. He did not go to the speech, but he went to Ozzie Davis’ plus room and said to him, I’m there if you need me.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, but they are rewriting history. I just saw on the Internet that some people from SNCC thinking he was standing outside of the room the night before, waiting, trying to get him to be able to speak, which was not true, because I was outside and he was not there doing that. And certainly that kind of speech would not have been participated in.

AMY GOODMAN: Gloria Richardson, talk about the differences. You were at the speech that Malcolm X gave in Detroit.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes. Well, there had been a grassroots conference that Reverend Franklin, who was at that time Aretha Franklin’s father, had organized for SCLC, because they wanted to move to the North, which I suppose also feeds into Malcolm part about they were losing their reputations and stuff.

AMY GOODMAN: Meaning move the movement to the North.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Move the SCLC. No, not the movement. Move the SCLC part of the movement to the North. I was at the conference. I was bored. But somebody there told me as I came out one of the workshops that, you are in the wrong place. You need to go over to Reverend Clege — and I had not heard of him before — Reverend Clege’s church. But when they said, and I think Malcolm is going to be there. So, I thought, I’ve never really have heard him speak nor met him, so I said, OK, fine. So, the people I were staying with took me over there. A man from Cambridge that had gone through medical school had a clinic in Detroit, very middle-class. And he took me and sat while Malcolm spoke. I think by the next morning, his whole head was turned around. I said, wait a minute, you have a different position over here. You need to calm down. But he made that speech and we talked some, and then we invited him to Cambridge.

AMY GOODMAN: You invited Malcolm X.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Malcolm X to Cambridge. But, he had gone to Europe and there was some confusion and, actually, I think it was that Louis Farrakhan, they said, they sent him a man from Washington and we were having this big demonstration and he was just horrible. We always thought of the Muslim people as being strong, as touch me I’ll fight and stuff, but the group there in Cambridge said, no, we don’t have any part in this. And when he gave his speech, you could just see people in the audience — we were supposed to be having a demonstration afterwards — going getting just, blah, what. But, Adam Clayton Powell did, but the very fact that he had mentioned Cambridge and that they knew that there was a connection there, that we could go into meetings and say, well, you either deal with us or you have Malcolm X come to town here, they would get just hysterical. The police chief said, oh, no. But, am I answering your question?

AMY GOODMAN: Yeah. Let me go to break and we’re going to come back and continue this discussion about the movement at the time and where it is today. We are talking to Gloria Richardson on the stage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee in Maryland. She should have spoken at the march. She got a "hello" out before the microphone was taken. But, she was on the program. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report . We are putting the women back into that march today with Gloria Richardson now 91 years old, living here in New York City.

MAHALIA JACKSON: [SINGING]

AMY GOODMAN: "How I Got Over," sung by Mahalia Jackson at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I’m Amy Goodman, Host of _Democracy Now!, and our guest is Gloria Richardson. Gloria Richardson, who was on the stage — in fact, did you meet Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson? Did you hear...?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Mahalia Jackson because she wanted me to go with her to Baltimore. She was appearing somewhere the next night on stage. But, I couldn’t do that at that time.

AMY GOODMAN: It was Mahalia Jackson who got —

GLORIA RICHARDSON: It was Mahalia Jackson. But with Marian Anderson —

AMY GOODMAN: The opera singer.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: I had gone when I was in school in Washington when they were preventing her from singing, the DAR, and Eleanor Roosevelt —

AMY GOODMAN: This was Daughters for the American Revolution were preventing her from singing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: I think she ended up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial because of Eleanor Roosevelt. And so I had been in school then and I had gone out there when that happened. And also my mother knew her because she was friends with her husband’s family.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn — before we turn to Ella Baker, who is a person a lot of young people haven’t heard of but you knew well, I want to get to John Lewis. Because John Lewis was forced to change his speech, the 13-term Congress member right now, he was at the time the chair of SNCC, only surviving speaker of the 1963 March, now Congress Member from Georgia. This is what he said at the original March.

JOHN LEWIS: We come here today with a great sense of misgiving. It is true that we support the administration’s Civil Rights Bill. We support it with great reservation, however. Unless title three is put in this bill, there’s nothing to protect the young children and old women who must face police dogs and fire hoses in the South while they engage in peaceful demonstration.

In its present form this bill will not protect the citizens of Danville, Virginia, who must live in constant fear of a police state. It will not protect the hundreds and thousands of people that have been arrested on trumped up charges. What about the three young men, SNCC field secretaries in America, Georgia, who face the death penalty for engaging in peaceful protest?

As it stands now, the voting section of this bill will not help the thousands of people who want to vote. It will not help the citizens of Mississippi, of Alabama and Georgia who are unqualified to vote for lack of sixth grade education. One man, one vote is the African cry. It is ours too. It must be ours.

AMY GOODMAN: That was John Lewis, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial. He was pressured to change his speech. Gloria Richardson, you try to help them out.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, when I got to —- finally got up to the stage, there were eight or nine SNCC people there and they told me what was going on and asked me if I would go back in there and help them fight to keep the speech as it was. And I said yes. And then I went -— tried to get inside the Lincoln Memorial and the guards there stopped me and said I couldn’t go in. So once again, there was a barrier put up. But, Foreman released I think the entire speech to the press and I think The Washington Post printed that the next day.

AMY GOODMAN: Back on Marian Anderson, just the particular facts of that story, she wanted to sing to an integrated audience at Constitutional Hall, Daughters of American Revolution didn’t let her, so Eleanor Roosevelt with FDR got her to sing at this open-air concert at the Lincoln Memorial, 75,000 people came, millions listened on the radio, she goes on to be the first black person, African-American or black overall, who sang at the Metropolitan Opera, the great opera singer Marian Anderson. Let’s talk now about Ella Baker and the significance of Ella Baker. She played a key role in some of the most influential organizations of the time, including the NAACP and Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference or SCLC, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee. Here Ella Baker discusses how the formation of the SCLC came about.

ELLA BAKER: I think the basic why of SCLC, has to do with what had taken place in the 54 decision and the unthought of Montgomery bus boycott. But, before you can evaluate the bus boycott, you have to understand how it came about, and it didn’t come out of a vacuum. There were two people in Montgomery who had functions with the NAACP over the years, and they were Mrs. Rosa Parks and Ed — E.D. Nixon — not Ed. I don’t know what his name was but E.D. Nixon. But where did E.D. Nixon get his fire? He got his fire and sense of social action from being a member of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the struggle that it had waged over the years. So, when the Montgomery Bus Boycott, let’s call it, ended successfully, here you had a social phenomenon that had not taken place in history for those of us who were around at that time. Where hundreds of people and even thousands of people, just ordinary people had taken a position that put them in a very uncomfortable — or at least made life less comfortable for them, when they decided to walk rather than to ride the bus.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ella Baker. Tell us, Gloria Richardson, who Ella Baker was.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Ella Baker, although, I think a lot of people here, in the City do not know, Ella Baker was from New York City. But, she had been through a variety of organizations, the NAACP, SCLC, and then when those six students in North Carolina sat in and about two weeks later, college students had this huge conference of young people, and Mrs. Baker was there and in my mind, she was the one that set them free, because SCLC wanted them to be a youth component of SCLC and she said, no, you all go and do — make your own mistakes and do your own fight. And that is what they did, as an independent group of young students. Most people today, and when I go around — because we are older and whatnot, I think they don’t translate back into when these were high school and maybe one year of college, grammar school students out in the streets fighting for their civil rights. Mrs. Baker freed them to do that. That is also why — I don’t understand why John, now, left and clings to SCLC when she was trying to free that youth movement to go and do whatever, you know, wanted to do. But, she would come, and she would fly into Atlanta or fly wherever there was a crisis or they needed some advice, and she would come in at any time of the night. She was not based in Atlanta.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is the movement today? For example, were you invited to speak at the 50th anniversary function in Washington?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: [laughs] Oh, no. I just spoke to somebody the other day who had two invitations, but one they rescinded and now he didn’t know what
it was supposed to do–that was in Washington. No. I don’t think— I think Malcolm could make the same speech. I’m sure people would be horrified. I
think the people that went are ok. I’ve just seen something in the last day where there was a disconnect between the speeches and the energy and wishes of the crowd that is coming behind him, and I can’t — I just don’t understand because they said that the police went and took away from a group of people the signs that said "the new Jim Crow." That’s ridiculous in 2013. And then people like to strut around the street and say they have
a black president and he’s going to speak to {X}? It will be interesting to see what he says.

AMY GOODMAN:What is your assessment of President Obama?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Well, I think he’s a nice man, but nice men don’t make good presidents. I wasn’t particularly fond of John Kennedy. His brother, yes. He was hard-nosed. He knew what he had to do and he did it.

AMY GOODMAN: Robert Kennedy.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, but I don’t think–part of it’s probably not his fault. He did not go to grammar school and high school here. He went to
upscale, royal private schools in Hawaii and Indonesia and then came to Columbia. I don’t think he’s really gone through the kinds of things that
small, little small black boys have to go through growing up into that kind of a position.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you think that determines his presidency today?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: I don’t think like — when he, on national TV said, with his two children standing beside him that there was no need for affirmative
action for them because they were smart. Affirmative action was never about people being smart. It was about people that were smart not being able to get into the system.

AMY GOODMAN: What about women? Fifty years ago where were women in the movement when your mic was being snatched?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Well, the same place now. Myrlie Evers spoke and then I saw her in another—

AMY GOODMAN: Myrlie Evers spoke at the 50th anniversary in March.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Yes, and she spoke the other day. Then I saw her in another setting when she was explaining that she was very bitter about the first thing, I’m not sure why she was exactly because she has a foundation and stuff, I’m not sure she’s that pleased with this. But I guess, it was a little better.

AMY GOODMAN: Her message, this 50th anniversary, was that people should embrace the term "stand your ground," not the laws but take it back and say, "stand your ground." The idea that people should stand their ground. What? Not the laws.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: I understand what you mean.

AMY GOODMAN: She says people should take a stand today.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Oh, OK, but she didn’t use "stand your ground." Oh, no. I don’t think people understand. I think they’re waiting for somebody, some preacher to rise up in the middle and save them. I don’t think they understand that they can go out and make mistakes and do it themselves. That it has to be some special kind of person.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the message of the Cambridge movement that you came out of? I mean, you came out of Eastern Maryland. Eastern Maryland is where Frederick Douglass was born.

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Oh yes, about five minutes from me and Harriet Tubman. Where, now, the hip-hop people have now put on a pornographic movie about
her. And this guy — I forgot his name, McBride or something, "The New York Times" is in there with his glowing two-page review of his book talking about Frederick Douglass was a drunk and John Brown was crazy. And isn’t that funny? So, I think now there is some kind of concerted effort in the cultural environment to make fun of anything that historically would give people any kind of courage or nerve or desire to fight. I don’t think it is
accidental.

AMY GOODMAN: The Cambridge movement was controversial, even fifty years ago. Maybe you’re saying part of why they were taking the mic from you. What was the message of the Cambridge movement? What was it you are doing in Maryland?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: We weren’t going to stop until we got it and if violence occurred and we would have to accept that.

AMY GOODMAN: Until you got what?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Until we got our agreement, which we did. There is — and amazingly after all of that fight with blacks against whites and whites against blacks, today, there is a black woman mayor, there is a black man that is head of the city Council, and another black man that is head of the Dorchester County Council. And while I wouldn’t say there is no racism in Cambridge, but they are now within that structure. And then because we got
rid of the restrictive housing, in order to get the new housing, then there were some people over the years that moved into what I’m calling white neighborhoods, maybe 99% white. Two of those neighborhoods that we couldn’t even walk in before, elected black representatives to the City Council. So there has been structurally, I think, some change. I think that is because the structural changes that were put in at that time.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, your role as a woman in the movement?

GLORIA RICHARDSON: Oh, I didn’t have–yes, because I thought about that earlier–I did not have a problem with black men in Cambridge. It was five black men that came and asked me once my cousin decided it was a conflict of interest to be co-chair and provide the bail, then they asked me to do it. I think that’s because not only my family, but most of their families, had been in Dorchester County since maybe the late 1700s, whether they were poor or well to do or whatever. So, it was that kind of history I think that made them embrace me.

AMY GOODMAN: Gloria Richardson, I want to thank you very much for being with us, for honoring us with your presence. Gloria Richardson was on a stage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and slated to speak, co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee of Maryland.

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