Ms. Richardson was invited to speak at the March on Washington in August 1963, though organizers balked when she showed up in her trademark jeans. She compromised on a jean skirt. Not long before Dr. King’s address, she rose to the microphone to speak, but was cut off after saying “hello,” apparently for fear that she would say something off message.
Protests in Cambridge continued into 1964, though in deference to the attorney general, whose brother President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated in November 1963, Ms. Richardson muted her street-level activism. She became the co-founder of an organization, Act, that pushed for systemic change and economic justice in the North.
Ms. Richardson was heartened by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which not only enforced desegregation but also tackled job discrimination and education. By then, she had decided to step back from the Cambridge movement, in part because of the stress but also because she was wary of becoming an icon — better, she said, for new leaders to take over.
And they did. Her departure coincided with the coming of a new generation of activists like Stokely Carmichael and the Black Panthers, who looked past the reformist efforts of Dr. King and others to embrace the sort of change that Ms. Richardson had emphasized.
“They looked to Ms. Richardson as the sort of uncompromising Black radical leader they should emulate,” Joseph R. Fitzgerald, an associate professor of history at Cabrini University, in Radnor, Pa., and the author of “The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation,” said in an interview. “She showed that you shouldn’t settle for half a loaf of bread. You should take it all.”
Gloria St. Clair Hayes was born in Baltimore on May 6, 1922, and moved with her family to Cambridge when she was 6. Her father, John Hayes, owned a pharmacy and her mother, Mabel St. Clair, was a housewife.
The St. Clairs were one of the wealthiest and most influential Black families in Maryland. Her grandfather, Herbert St. Clair, was the first Black member of the Cambridge City Council.
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