Cambridge movement
Part of the Civil Rights Movement
DateDecember 1961 – 1964
Caused by
Resulted in
  • 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 they were still discriminated against and lacked economic opportunities. Their homes lacked plumbing, with some even living in "chicken shacks". Since the local hospitals were segregated and only served white people, Black residents had to drive two hours to Baltimore for medical care.[3] They experienced 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, provided that the whites agreed not to unionize. All venues of entertainment, churches, cafes, and schools were segregated. Black schools received half as much funding as white schools.[1] Even though a third of Cambridge's residents were Black, there were only three Black police officers. These officers were not permitted to patrol white neighborhoods or arrest white individuals.[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. The Cambridge Movement, much like Freedom Summer, placed significant emphasis on voter education drives, but there were some differences. In Cambridge, local white residents did not react as violently to increased Black voter registration as they did in Mississippi. In fact, some white moderates even advocated for voter registration, viewing it as a better alternative to direct action protests in the streets and public facilities. Moreover, Black voter registration did not threaten the white majority as it did 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 CNAC, which was the only SNCC affiliate not led by students.[5] The CNAC began picketing businesses that refused to hire Black people and conducted sit-ins at lunch-counters that would not serve Black individuals. White mobs often disrupted these protests. Protests on Race Street, which separated the Black and white communities, often turned violent. Cleveland Sellers, a SNCC Field Secretary, later reflected, "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 the Black community, stating, "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, tensions rose steadily over a period of seven weeks. During this time, Richardson and 80 other protesters were arrested. By June, Black residents were rioting in the streets.[5] Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes met with the protesters at a local school, offering to accelerate school desegregation, build public housing, and establish a biracial commission if the protests ceased. The CNAC rejected the deal. In response, Governor Tawes declared martial law and sent the National Guard to Cambridge.[6]

Treaty of Cambridge

Potential violence near Washington, D.C., brought Cambridge to the attention of the Kennedy Administration. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy initiated discussions with the CNAC. Together with the local city government, they arrived at an agreement aimed at averting possible violence. The agreement, named the 'Treaty of Cambridge,' proposed to desegregate public facilities, establish provisions for public housing, and create a human rights committee. However, it eventually fell through when the local government demanded that it should be passed by a local referendum.[3]

George Wallace

In May 1964, George Wallace, the segregationist Governor of Alabama, was invited by the DBCA, the city's primary business association, to give a campaign speech in Cambridge. Shortly after his arrival, black protesters appeared to protest his appearance, which incited a riot.[3]


Once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Congress, the movement lost all momentum. The federal government had effectively mandated all that the CNAC had been fighting for. As the protests subsided, the National Guard withdrew. Subsequently, Gloria Richardson resigned from the CNAC and relocated 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