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The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation

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Many prominent and well-known figures greatly impacted the civil rights movement, but one of the most influential and unsung leaders of that period was Gloria Richardson. As the leader of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC), a multifaceted liberation campaign formed to target segregation and racial inequality in Cambridge, Maryland, Richardson advocated for economic justice and tactics beyond nonviolent demonstrations. Her philosophies and strategies—including her belief that black people had a right to self–defense—were adopted, often without credit, by a number of civil rights and black power leaders and activists.

The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation explores the largely forgotten but deeply significant life of this central figure and her determination to improve the lives of black people. Using a wide range of source materials, including interviews with Richardson and her personal papers, as well as interviews with dozens of her friends, relatives, and civil rights colleagues, Joseph R. Fitzgerald presents an all-encompassing narrative. From Richardson's childhood, when her parents taught her the importance of racial pride, through the next eight decades, Fitzgerald relates a detailed and compelling story of her life. He reveals how Richardson's human rights activism extended far beyond Cambridge and how her leadership style and vision for liberation were embraced by the younger activists of the black power movement, who would carry the struggle on throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s.

ISBN-13: 9780813178745

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: University Press of Kentucky

Publication Date: 01-14-2020

Pages: 360

Product Dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

Age Range: 18 Years

Series: Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century

Joseph R. Fitzgerald is assistant professor of history and political science at Cabrini University. His areas of focus include critical race feminism and the civil rights and black power waves of the modern black liberation movement.

What People are Saying About This

Peter B. Levy

"Fitzgerald has written the definitive biography of Gloria Richardson, arguably the least-known civil rights activist of the 1960s. By delving deep into available written sources as well as making use of multiple interviews with Richardson, family members, and Richardson's compatriots, he presents a vivid picture of a woman who stood alongside Rosa Parks and four others who were honored at the 1963 March on Washington as the "Negro Women Fighters for Freedom." Fitzgerald's biography of Richardson enhances our understanding of the civil rights movement of the 1960s by adding new layers of geographic, gender, and ideological complexity to it. At the same time, Fitzgerald makes it clear that Richardson's life and beliefs remain relevant to anyone who has an interest in the ongoing struggle for human rights today."

Komozi Woodard

"Gloria Richardson was front-page news at the helm of the militant Cambridge movement. Malcolm X admired her as the new brand of leadership in 'A Message to the Grassroots' and Stokely Carmichael followed her into battle, but somehow the history books lost her in their leading-man narrative of civil rights. Finally, students have the long-awaited Gloria Richardson biography. Read this book and rediscover a golden age of street fighting and self-defense spanning civil rights and black power."

Patrick D. Jones

"Joseph R. Fitzgerald's The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation provides the deepest exploration to date of one of the most significant, complex, and overlooked female leaders of the modern black freedom movement. Gloria Richardson's distinctive activist history brings into sharp relief broader debates over nonviolence and armed self-defense, civil rights and Black Power, models of black political leadership, and the roles of women in the movement, as well as the relationship between local campaigns and national racial change. Fitzgerald's analysis is a part of an important, growing body of historical work that challenges, complicates, and ultimately enriches popular conceptions of the movement era."

Kathleen Cleaver

"Joseph Fitzgerald's The Struggle Is Eternal is the first book to fully examine the Cambridge movement and its leader, Gloria Richardson. In 1963, I saw that unforgettable magazine photograph of Gloria Richardson calmly facing an armed contingent of soldiers who were sent to put down the movement she led in Cambridge, Maryland. Mrs. Richardson evolved into a civil rights leader whom the authorities considered almost as dangerous as Martin Luther King Jr. She remains engaged in the struggle for social justice to this day. I am thrilled that Fitzgerald's work allows a broader audience to know Gloria Richardson, and to enhance their understanding of the civil rights movement, in which she played a significant role."

Sekou Franklin

"Fitzgerald captures the complexity of Gloria Richardson's activism: the family underpinnings of her political orientation, her dynamic role in the Cambridge, Maryland, civil rights movement, and as the principal leader of the Cambridge Non-Violent Action Committee, and her political evolution as an activist in the North. His portrait underscores how Richardson's political independence and self-reliance—traits cultivated by her family's multigenerational involvement in civic and political life—shaped her resistance as a fierce and unrelenting advocate at the height of the Cambridge movement in the 1960s. What makes Fitzgerald's portrait so fascinating is that it shows how Richardson struggled against the sexism and gendered patterns of organizing that plagued the movement and broader society."

From the Publisher

"Gloria Richardson was front-page news at the helm of the militant Cambridge movement. Malcolm X admired her as the new brand of leadership in 'A Message to the Grassroots' and Stokely Carmichael followed her into battle, but somehow the history books lost her in their leading-man narrative of civil rights. Finally, students have the long-awaited Gloria Richardson biography. Read this book and rediscover a golden age of street fighting and self-defense spanning civil rights and black power." — Komozi Woodard, author of A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics


"Fitzgerald has written the definitive biography of Gloria Richardson, arguably the least-known civil rights activist of the 1960s. By delving deep into available written sources as well as making use of multiple interviews with Richardson, family members, and Richardson's compatriots, he presents a vivid picture of a woman who stood alongside Rosa Parks and four others who were honored at the 1963 March on Washington as the "Negro Women Fighters for Freedom." Fitzgerald's biography of Richardson enhances our understanding of the civil rights movement of the 1960s by adding new layers of geographic, gender, and ideological complexity to it. At the same time, Fitzgerald makes it clear that Richardson's life and beliefs remain relevant to anyone who has an interest in the ongoing struggle for human rights today." — Peter B. Levy, author of Civil War on Race Street: The Civil Rights Struggle in Cambridge, Maryland


"No history of the civil rights movement is complete without understanding the life and work of Gloria Richardson. Finally, we have a serious biography of her that will deepen our understanding of the key organizing and leadership roles women like Richardson played in the struggle. Joseph Fitzgerald's rich history of Richardson's leadership of the Cambridge movement, which fought for housing, education, jobs, healthcare and desegregation, offers much for reckoning where we have been in this country and where we must go today." — Jeanne Theoharis, author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks


"Joseph R. Fitzgerald's The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation provides the deepest exploration to date of one of the most significant, complex, and overlooked female leaders of the modern black freedom movement. Gloria Richardson's distinctive activist history brings into sharp relief broader debates over nonviolence and armed self-defense, civil rights and Black Power, models of black political leadership, and the roles of women in the movement, as well as the relationship between local campaigns and national racial change. Fitzgerald's analysis is a part of an important, growing body of historical work that challenges, complicates, and ultimately enriches popular conceptions of the movement era." — Patrick D. Jones, author of The Selma of the North: Civil Rights Insurgency in Milwaukee

Christina M. Greer

"The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation is such a necessary and welcome addition to the canon of scholarship that analyzes SNCC, the Black Power movement, and the struggle for racial equity in America. This incredibly detailed book clearly lays out Richardson's dedication to the Cambridge movement, the black radical movement, and the overall fight for black liberation. Richardson is tireless in her efforts and there is finally a book to honor and contextualize her many contributions not just to black history, but to American democracy."

Jeanne Theoharis

"No history of the civil rights movement is complete without understanding the life and work of Gloria Richardson. Finally, we have a serious biography of her that will deepen our understanding of the key organizing and leadership roles women like Richardson played in the struggle. Joseph Fitzgerald's rich history of Richardson's leadership of the Cambridge movement, which fought for housing, education, jobs, healthcare and desegregation, offers much for reckoning where we have been in this country and where we must go today."

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Foundations 12

2 Get Up, Stand Up 28

3 Capital Gains 42

4 Dreams Deferred 56

5 Shock Therapy, Round One 69

6 Shock Therapy, Round Two 88

7 A Nonnegotiable Right 118

8 Creative Chaos 145

9 Vanguard 171

10 "You Will Not Be Able to Stay Home, [Sister]" 199

11 Back to Work 213

Conclusion 225

Acknowledgments 231

Notes 237

Bibliography 309

Index 329