Cambridge movement
Part of the Civil Rights Movement
DateDecember 1961 – 1964
Caused by
Resulted in
Parties to the civil conflict
  • City of Cambridge
  • Dorchester Business & Citizens' Association (DBCA)
  • Committee on Interracial Understanding (CIU)
Lead figures
CNAC members

CIG member

  • Clarence Logan

SNCC members

Mayor of Cambridge
  • Calvin Mawbray

The Cambridge movement was an American social movement in Dorchester County, Maryland, led by Gloria Richardson and the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee. Protests continued from late 1961 to the summer of 1964. The movement led to the desegregation of all schools, recreational areas, and hospitals in Maryland and the longest period of martial law within the United States since 1877.[1] Many cite it as the birth of the Black Power movement.[2]


Black residents of Cambridge had the right to vote, but were still discriminated against and lacked economic opportunities. Their homes did not have plumbing, some even living in "chicken shacks." And since the local segregated hospitals were white, Black residents had to drive two hours to Baltimore for medical care.[3] They had the highest rates of unemployment. The Black unemployment rate was four times higher than that of whites. The only two local factories, both defense contractors, had agreed not to hire any Black workers, as long as the whites agreed not to unionize. All venues of entertainment, churches, cafes, and schools were segregated. Black schools received half as much funding as whites.[1] Even though a third of Cambridge's residents were Black, there were only three black police officers. These police officers could not patrol white neighborhoods or arrest white people. [4]

The movement

Initial protests

On Christmas Eve of 1961, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Field Secretaries Reggie Robinson and Bill Hansen arrived and began organizing student protests. Additionally, the Cambridge Movement, much like Freedom Summer, placed significant emphasis on voter education drives, but there were some differences. In Cambridge, local whites did not react as violently to increased Black voter registration as they did in Mississippi. In fact, some white moderates actually advocated for voter registration, as they viewed it as better than the alternative of direct action protests in the streets and in public facilities. Also, Black voter registration did not threaten the white majority like in the Black Belt in the American South.[4] In 1962, the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, (CNAC), was organized to run these protests. Gloria Richardson and Inez Grubb both became the co-chairs of the CNAC. It was the only affiliate of SNCC that was not student-led.[5] The CNAC began picketing any business which refused to hire Black people. They conducted sit-ins at lunch-counters which would not serve Black people. White mobs often disrupted protests such as these. Protests on Race Street, which separated the Black and white communities, often became violent. Cleveland Sellers, who was a SNCC Field Secretary, later said, "By the time we got to town, Cambridge’s Black people had stopped extolling the virtues of passive resistance. Guns were carried as a matter of course and it was understood that they would be used."[3] Richardson defended such actions by Black people: "Self-defense may actually be a deterrent to further violence. Hitherto, the government has moved into conflict situations only when matters approach the level of insurrection." In the spring of 1963, over a period of seven weeks, Richardson and 80 other protesters were arrested. Tensions rose steadily and by June, Black people were rioting in the street.[5] Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes met with the protesters at a local school. He offered to accelerate school desegregation, build public housing, and establish a biracial commission if they only cease the protests. The CNAC rejected the deal, and in response, he declared martial law and sent the National Guard to Cambridge.[6]

Treaty of Cambridge

Possible violence close to the U.S. capitol brought Cambridge to the attention of the Kennedy Administration. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy began holding discussions with the CNAC. They, and the local city government, reached an agreement which would prevent possible violence. It would also desegregate public facilities, create provisions for public housing, and establish a human rights committee. It was called the "Treaty of Cambridge." But the agreement soon fell through as the local government demanded that it be passed by a local referendum.[3]

George Wallace

In May 1964, George Wallace, the segregationist Governor of Alabama, arrived in Cambridge to give a campaign speech. He had been invited by the DBCA, the city's primary business association. Black protesters soon appeared to protest his appearance and a riot occurred.[3]


Once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress, the movement lost all momentum. The federal government had mandated everything that the CNAC had been fighting for. As protests ended, the National Guard withdrew. Gloria Richardson resigned from the CNAC and moved to New York City.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Cambridge, Md. 50 years ago: When the civil rights movement hit". 2013-02-09. Archived from the original on 2019-01-13. Retrieved 2019-01-12.
  2. ^ Warren, Robert Penn (1965). Who Speaks for the Negro?. United States: Random House. ISBN 978-0300205107.
  3. ^ a b c d "Treaty of Cambridge". Archived from the original on 2019-02-09. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  4. ^ a b "Demonstrations on Maryland's Eastern Shore". SNCC Digital Gateway. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "Gloria Richardson". Biography. Archived from the original on 2019-02-02. Retrieved 2019-01-13.
  6. ^ Osorio, Yari (2013-02-09). "Cambridge, Md. 50 years ago: when the civil rights movement hit..." Liberation News. Archived from the original on 2019-01-13. Retrieved 2019-01-13.

Further reading

Scholarly monographs
Dissertations and theses
  • Erdman, Jennifer Lynn (2007). "Eyes of the World": Racial Discrimination Against African Dignitaries Along Maryland Route 40 During the Kennedy Administration (M.A. thesis). Morgan State University. ISBN 9781109813388.
  • Fitzgerald, Joseph R. (2005). Days of Wine and Roses: The Life of Gloria Richardson (Ph.D.). Temple University. OCLC 213097799.
  • Trever, Edward K. (1994). Gloria Richardson and the Cambridge Civil Rights Movement, 1962-1964 (M.A. thesis). Morgan State University. OCLC 32190676.
  • Wassink, Faith Noelle (2010). Meeting in the Middle in Maryland: How International and Domestic Politics Collided Along Route 40 (M.A. thesis). University of Maryland. OCLC 662519372.
Autobiographies and memoirs
  • Cook, Melanie B. (1988). "Gloria Richardson: Her Life and Work in SNCC". Sage: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women, Supplement: 51–53.
  • Foeman, Anita K. (May 1996). "Gloria Richardson: Breaking the Mold". Journal of Black Studies. 26 (5, Special Issue: The Voices of African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement): 604–615. doi:10.1177/002193479602600506. JSTOR 2784886. S2CID 145788465.
  • Hogan, Wesley (July 2002). "How Democracy Travels: SNCC, Swarthmore Students, and the Growth of the Student Movement in the North, 1961-1964". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 126 (3): 437–470. JSTOR 20093549.
  • Holder, Calvin B. (September 1983). "Racism Toward Black African Diplomats During the Kennedy Administration". Journal of Black Studies. 14 (1): 31–48. doi:10.1177/002193478301400103. JSTOR 2784029. S2CID 145161414.
  • Millner, Sandra Y. (July 1996). "Recasting Civil Rights Leadership: Gloria Richardson and the Cambridge Movement". Journal of Black Studies. 26 (6): 668–687. doi:10.1177/002193479602600602. JSTOR 2784860. S2CID 145480828.
  • Omo-Osagie, Solomon Iyobosa (Spring 2003). "'Count Her In': Enez Stafford Grubb in the Building and Rebuilding of an African American Community". Southern History. 24: 40–49.
  • Richardson, Gloria (Winter 1964). "Freedom—Here and Now". Freedomways. 4: 32–34.
  • Romano, Renee (September 2000). "No Diplomatic Immunity: African Diplomats, the State Department, and Civil Rights, 1961-1964". The Journal of American History. 87 (2): 546–579. doi:10.2307/2568763. JSTOR 2568763.
  • Szabo, Peter S. (Fall 1994). "An Interview with Gloria Richardson Dandridge" (PDF). Maryland Historical Magazine. 89: 347–358. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-03-04. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  • Vachon, Nicholas Murray (Spring 2012). "The Junction: The Cold War, Civil Rights, and the African Diplomats of Maryland's Route 40" (PDF). Primary Source: The Indiana University Undergraduate Journal of History. 2 (1): 43–51. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2018-11-23. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
Non-academic works
  • Henry, David (2003). Up Pine Street: A Pictorial History of the African-American Community of Cambridge, Maryland 1884-1951. David Henry. ISBN 9780974795409.
  • Henry, David (2007). Up Pine Street: A Pictorial History of the African-American Community of Cambridge, Maryland 1951-2007. David Henry. ISBN 9780974795416.
  • Silberman, Lauren R. (2015). "Gloria Richardson Dandridge: Crusader in Cambridge". Wild Women of Maryland: Grit & Gumption in the Free State. History Press. pp. 85–91. ISBN 9781626198111. Archived from the original on 2020-12-18. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
Audio and video