#Gloria Hayes Richardson was born on May 6, 1922 in Baltimore, Maryland. She moved with her parents John and Mabel Hayes during the Great Depression to Cambridge, Maryland. Her grandfather, Herbert M. St. Clair, was one of the town’s wealthiest men in town. Her grandfather owned numerous properties in the city’s Second Ward which included: a funeral parlor, grocery store and butcher shop. Richardson grew up very privilege.
Richardson attended Howard University in Washington at the age of 16, and graduated in 1942 with a degree in sociology. After Howard, she worked as a civil servant for the federal government in World War II-era Washington, D.C., but she returned to Cambridge after the war. Even though Richardson’s family was well-known throughout the community, the Maryland Department of Social services refused to hire Gloria, or any other #Black social workers.
During the Civil Rights Movement, the Freedom Riders arrived in Cambridge in 1961. By this time the town was deeply segregated, and almost half of the African-American population was unemployed. Richardson was married and had been raising her children for 13 years. Her teenage daughter became involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in an effort to desegregate public accommodations and facilities.
The SNCC-led protests failed in 1962, and when this happened, the parents banned together and created the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee(CNAC). The organization became the only adult-led SNCC affiliate in the Civil Rights Movement history. Richardson was selected to lead the CNAC, and they soon added to their grievances: housing, inadequate health care, and employment discrimination.
Richardson and her group refused to commit to non-violence as a philosophy. For this reason their protest were far more violent and very confrontational. In 1963, protests from the CNAC was so bad that Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes sent in the Maryland National Guard. The Guard had to remain in the city for almost a year. Richardson resigned from the CNAC in 1964 because she had grown weary and exhausted. She later moved to New York City, and maintained ties with Cambridge, but never moved back.