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Contradictions in the Cause: Glen Echo Maryland 1960

26 Jun
Glen Echo Integration Picket Line: 1960

Protesters demand Glen Echo admit African Americans in 1960.

By Daniel Hardin

The story of the effort to end segregation at Glen Echo Amusement Park in Montgomery County, Maryland 55 years ago is an inspiring one that continues to be celebrated today.

A mixed group of black and white college students from the local Nonviolent Action Group (NAG) began picketing the facility in June 1960 calling for an end to the privately owned park’s policy of barring African Americans.

The neighboring residents of the overwhelmingly white and majority Jewish community of Bannockburn joined them. Together they sustained the picket lines through the summer heat in the face of American Nazi Party counter demonstrators until the owners gave in and finally desegregated the facility the following spring.

The effort involved harassment and arrests and resulted in a precedent setting court case establishing that an off-duty sheriff deputy employed as a park guard conducting the arrests at the behest of the park owners was in fact an agent of the state. Such use of a state agent to enforce segregation was illegal, the Supreme Court ruled in 1964. It was a resounding victory all the way around–both in the social forces involved and the outcome.

Lost in the re-telling of the story is how some white participants worked to depose the black leader of NAG in the middle of the Glen Echo fight and replace him with one more palatable to the Kennedy-Johnson presidential ticket that opposed enacting national legislation on civil rights. The successful attempt, in turn, sowed some of the seeds of the black power movement later in the decade.

Background to Glen Echo Protest

The storied Glen Echo Amusement Park opened in 1891 as a segregated facility featuring concerts and other arts performances. Streetcar service to Glen Echo began the same year. The park didn’t fare well featuring performing arts and converted to an amusement park in the early twentieth century.

At the time Glen Echo opened, the reversal of African American gains during the Reconstruction period was at its peak and both terror and new segregationist laws were enforcing Jim Crow.

The nascent civil rights movement in the Washington area tried a number of tactics to fight the renewed denial of the rights of African Americans ranging from protests against lynching to armed self-defense during the Washington “riot” of 1919.

Scottsboro pickets clash with police at Supreme Court: 1932

An unauthorized march to “Free the Scottsboro Boys” at the Supreme Court in 1932 introduces civil disobedience to the early rights movement.

The tactic of civil disobedience for civil rights was introduced in Washington, D.C. during the Scottsboro campaign in 1932 when communists staged a prohibited march on the Supreme Court.

The boycott was introduced during the 1930s in a campaign to force those doing business in the black community to hire African Americans. District of Columbia residents also employed a wide range of methods in a fight against police brutality 1938-41.

Picket lines and court cases largely de-segregated public facilities within the District of Columbia during the 1940s and 50s, but the suburbs remained bastions of segregation.

The sit-in tactic was utilized at the Alexandria, Virginia public library in 1939, but the approach was not adopted on a widespread basis either in the Washington, D.C. area or around the country.

However, the use of the tactic exploded when four African American students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University began a movement when they staged a sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 1, 1960.

Origins of the Nonviolent Action Group

At the same time, a 25-year old divinity student was forming a group dedicated to civil rights action at Howard University. Laurence Henry led a small group of Howard students who were joined by students from other area colleges to picket the Capitol in March 1960 demanding movement on a federal civil rights bill. The organization was named the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG).

The picket line was completely ignored and Henry concluded that picketing targets like the Capitol and the White House were a “waste of time,” according to the Washington Post.

Arrested for Arlington Sit-In: 1960

Laurence Henry (right) arrested at a sit-in at Howard Johnson in Arlington, Virginia June 10, 1960 during the desegregation campaign.

Instead Henry decided to emulate the Greensboro sit-ins. He first targeted Alexandria, Va., which responded by agreeing to undertake a quick desegregation study composed of black leaders and white businesses in return for a postponement of demonstrations. Henry agreed and moved NAG’s first sit-in to Arlington, Virginia. On June 9th a small interracial group began a sit in at a People’s Drug Store and quickly spread to other restaurants and lunch counters in that city.

They were confronted by up to 300 residents organized by the American Nazi Party and several arrests by police, including Henry. However the demonstrators continued their sit-ins for two weeks until most major chain stores agreed to desegregate. Alexandria city officials quickly announced that chain stores and restaurants in the town would also desegregate and Fairfax County gave similar notice a week later.

Glen Echo Protests Begin

Kids Celebrate Day at Glen Echo Park: 1947

Washington Star news carriers enjoying themselves in segregated Glen Echo in 1947.

Fresh from victory in Virginia, the group picked Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County, Maryland as its next target. Glen Echo was a high-profile segregated facility and it was believed victory there would start the rest of the dominos in the Maryland suburbs tumbling.

The protests began early in the day on June 30th when two African American young women, Maudie Parker and Louise York, entered the park and were ordered to leave.

After the young women complied with the order, NAG leader Laurence Henry moved toward the gate and was halted by park security chief Francis J. Collins. A WWDC radio reporter recorded the conversation as follows: Collins: “What race do you belong to?” to which Henry responded, “I belong to the human race.”

Collins barred admittance and an integrated group of 60 people set up a picket line, carrying signs that read, “Glen Echo Should Echo Democracy” and “End Jim Crow at Glen Echo.”

Demonstrators enter the park

Henry soon defied Collins and led a group of about two-dozen into the park to The Ranch restaurant, which promptly closed down. About a dozen protesters moved onto the merry-go-round after white supporters bought tickets for the group.

Arrest on the Carousel at Glen Echo Park: 1960

Francis Collins places Marvous Saunders under arrest on the Glen Echo carousel June 30, 1960.

Collins, who was also a Montgomery County deputy sheriff, placed five African Americans under arrest after they refused to leave the ride within five minutes of his order to do so. Those arrested were Gwendolyn Greene (Britt), Cecil Washington, Marvous Saunders, Michael Proctor and William Griffin.

The demonstrations lasted about three hours on the first day, but it was just the first of hundreds of hours of picketing that involved assaults by the American Nazi Party and more arrests by police, Henry was beaten and arrested by police August 3rd in Glen Echo. In the county jail he joined fellow NAG member Dion Diamond in a hunger strike before police released the pair August 5th.

A number of residents from the nearby community of Bannockburn quickly joined in the picketing. Bannockburn was a close-knit progressive community, including many residents of the Jewish faith and several labor union leaders.

Counter demonstrators from the American Nazi Party showed up as well, broadcasting their messages of hate and attacking civil rights demonstrators with their fists from time to time. However, the Nazi’s presence probably increased support for the civil rights demonstrators.

Community brings new resources

Confidence in the Cause: Glen Echo, MD 1960

Nazis counter demonstrat0rs at Glen Echo while lone picket for civil rights passes by July 11, 1960.

The residents built their own support network and began supplying picketers to help sustain the lines. On many days they were the only ones picketing.

Irene Stambler, one of the residents remembered in a 2005 interview with Washington Jewish Week that the Bannockburn community provided food, permitted protesters to use bathrooms in their homes and “served lots and lots of lemonade” during the hot, humid summer weather.

Gwendolyn Britt, one of those arrested on the carousel and an early NAG activist, said, “”I have to applaud the community and the residents for joining in and supporting our action, for insisting that residents did not sit idly by,” according to WJW.

In addition to the logistical support, the Bannockburn community brought political connections that NAG lacked. Herman Bookbinder, another Bannockburn resident who was then a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO and later joined the Kennedy administration, brought high-profile rights activists into the fight.

Some other prominent people also lent support. Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. agreed to do a fundraiser for legal defense of those arrested, which NAG leader Henry estimated at 43 people at the time. The only African American U.S. congressman, Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY) also weighed in.

Perhaps most importantly, the Bannockburn community began to bring political pressure on the Montgomery County Council to cease busing students to Glen Echo as part of its recreation program. “It was natural that our community was responsive to it…It responded beautifully, both Jews and non-Jews,” Bookbinder said in the WJW article.

Laurence Henry

Jackie Robinson with Laurence G. Henry: 1962

Laurence Henry (right) with baseball great Jackie Robinson in Baltimore in 1963.

Laurence Henry was born in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1934 as one of 11 children to Walter L. and Vera Robinson Henry who raised their sons and daughters to excel.

Henry, an African American divinity student at Howard, was part of a new generation that demanded civil rights now and didn’t have the patience for incremental change that was advocated by many of the movement’s elder leaders.

During the Glen Echo picketing of 1960, Henry attended a meeting on civil rights sponsored by the NAACP in Washington, D.C. that was attended by a number of prominent leaders and celebrities. Jibreel Khazan, one of the Greensboro Four, remembered in a 1979 interview that Henry stood up and said,

I did not come here to drink tea and speak sympathy. I came here to get involved with rights for my people.”

Henry then left the room. Khazan related that people in the room were baffled. They simply had no understanding of what Henry was trying to say. But Henry gave meaning to the words through his actions.

100 Hour Picket at the Hiser Theater in Bethesda, MD: 1960

100 hour picket at the Hiser Theater July 1960.

Henry led other desegregation efforts in Montgomery County that summer, joining Rockville residents led by the Rev. Cecil Bishop in a sit-in at the Hi-Boy Restaurant July 9 that resulted in 25 arrests, but also in desegregation of the restaurant two weeks later.

After four arrests at the Hiser Theater in Bethesda, Henry led a 100-hour picket line July 26-28 to protest the theaters refusal to permit African Americans to view films.

The Civil Rights Bill of 1960

U.S. Senate Democratic and Republican leadership collaborated to pass a weak voting rights bill in 1960. Amendments to make the bill meaningful such as providing for the U.S. Attorney General to file for civil injunctions against officials committing rights violations or for a permanent Commission on Equal Job Opportunity were tabled or defeated by with bi-partisan votes.

NAACP lobbyist Clarence Mitchell wrote, “The Civil Rights Bill passed by Congress failed to meet the NAACP’s standard of a meaningful civil rights bill…” After the bill passed, the Democratic Party adopted a platform at their Presidential nominating convention July 11-15 that contained many of the measures they had fought against adding to the bill. Presidential nominee Sen. John F. Kennedy and vice-presidential nominee Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson were thereby then forced to run on a platform they both opposed.

Bible Answers Race Hate at Sit-In: Arlington VA, 1960

American Nazi Party members and supporters confront Laurence Henry (right) and another protestor during an Arlington sit-in June 9, 1960.

Rights advocates, however, were buoyed by the platform that was not watered down like the usual planks on civil rights.

Republican Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen saw an opening to embarrass Kennedy and Johnson and introduced a series of civil rights measures including federal aid for school districts that voluntarily desegregated and a measure that would establish an agency to enforce equal job opportunity.

Both Kennedy and Johnson, the Senate majority leader, reacted quickly. Kennedy felt he could ill-afford to alienate southern Democrats whom he believed he needed to win the presidency.

Harris Wofford, brought into the Democratic presidential campaign to win the African American vote, devised a strategy for a grand bargain whereby the Democrats would make raising the minimum wage in 1960 their centerpiece while promising civil rights leaders that major rights legislation would be the first order of business for a new Kennedy administration. In the meantime, they would kill the Dirksen initiatives.

They quickly signed up Democratic U.S. Senators and Representatives to support the plan and enlisted liberal Sen. Joseph S. Clark (D-Pa.), a staunch civil rights advocate, to lead the charge. Clark moved to table Senate bill 3823. His motion was adopted by a vote of 54 to 28. This prevented any further action on the bill.

This was the only record vote on civil rights between the adoption of the party platforms and the adjournment of the 86th Congress. Both Kennedy and Johnson went on record voting against taking action on civil rights.

Many of the new civil rights activists viewed this as betrayal. Veterans like Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. and Ralph Abernathy tacitly supported Republican Richard M. Nixon for president. Dirksen had dealt a blow, but it would not prove to be a fatal one.

Henry Plans Sit-in at Democrat’s Office

Henry reacted with outrage and accused Clark of “shaking hands with the devil,” [referring to southern Democrats] when speaking at an August 14 NAACP meeting in the District of Columbia and announced his intention to lead a sit-in at Clark’s office, according to The Evening Star.

Clark denounced Henry’s remarks as “irresponsible.” Some of the Bannockburn residents moved to quickly blunt Henry. At a meeting August 15, they demanded he apologize to Clark. Henry refused–after all as he’d said earlier he wasn’t here to “drink tea and speak sympathy.”

Civil rights leaders bolster line at Glen Echo: 1960

Roy Wilkins, A. Phillip Randolph, Hyman Bookbinder, Laurence Henry and Gwendolyn Greene on picket line at Glen Echo, MD August 17, 1960.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps cynically Bookbinder arranged for Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP, A. Phillip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and William Oliver of the United Automobile Workers to walk the picket line August 17 at Glen Echo. Bookbinder was lobbying for the AFL-CIO priority of raising the minimum wage that was part of Wofford’s “grand bargain.”

Bookbinder’s show of power in bringing national rights leaders to the local struggle had its effects on local rights activists. Later in the week, a meeting was arranged between Clark and members of NAG by Bookbinder. The students gave Clark a written apology that extolled Clark as “a major figure in the battle for civil rights legislation,” according to the Washington Post. However, Henry refused to express regret for his remarks.

Henry Removed from Leadership

Montgomery mug shot photo of Laurence Henry: 1960

Laurence Henry’s mug shot from a Montgomery County MD arrest in 1960.

Members of NAG held a meeting August 19 and removed Henry from leadership and designated Howard physics student Woody Jenkins as president. Jenkins said Henry’s plan to sit-in a Clark’s office was the “height of irresponsibility.”

Henry reacted calmly when speaking to the press, “The whole thing is that they claim they haven’t had enough voice, that I’ve been dictating. They wanted to have a hand in policy making.”

But on August 21st during a speech in Washington, African American Congressman Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY) referred to Henry’s ouster and blasted, “an effort to make a certain young man in this town a captive colored man.” Powell had earlier in his talk used “captive” to mean “Uncle Tom.” Powell promised to “present the facts to the public about the people who were forcing this young man to change his stand,” according to the Afro American. Henry was present during Powell’s speech.

Henry stuck to his principles and announced his intention to continue working to desegregate Glen Echo and was quoted in the Star saying, “It’s my project, I’ll be there until the place closes,”

Henry announced plans to march from Washington to Baltimore demanding a federal court injunction against Glen Echo. Leonard Brown, a spokesperson for NAG, denounced the effort saying, “Anything he does in this fashion, he does on his own,” according to the Star. But Henry went ahead with the 12-hour overnight march to the hearing in Baltimore and a number of NAG members joined him, including Gwendolyn Britt, one of those arrested on the carousel at Glen Echo.

Victory at Glen Echo

Judge James H. Pugh Orders Subversion Probe: 1969

Judge James H. Pugh presided over the trial of Glen Echo protesters in 1960.

Picketing did in fact continue into the fall until the park closed for the season. Three days before the park closed, the Montgomery County government agreed to stop busing white children to the Crystal Pool as part of their recreation program.

The park’s owners, Abram and Samuel Baker were seemingly unmoved. “This has always been a segregated park and we intend to keep it that way,” said a park spokesperson according to the Washington Post.

Judge James H. Pugh convicted the five African American students accused of trespassing for using tickets bought by whites to board the merry-go-round. In open court, Pugh justified his decision saying,

Imagine, college students from New York and college students from other places trying to force your ideas on the way other people run their businesses.

The political pressure, however, was building as public opinion increasingly swung against the segregationists. In early 1961, Bookbinder left his job with the AFL-CIO and took a position as assistant to the Secretary of Commerce and prevailed upon new Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to get involved. Kennedy threatened park owners with revoking the lease that permitted streetcars to service the park.

First Black Children at Glen Echo: 1961

Alfred Beal (l) and Larry Murrell (r) are the first African American children to ride the Glen Echo, MD merry-go-round March 30, 1961.

Shortly afterward, the Baker brothers quietly announced that Glen Echo would open in the spring of 1961 as a desegregated facility. On March 30, 1961 Alfred Beal and Larry Murrell, both age 10, became the first African Americans to ride the carousel at the park.

The case of the five arrested on the carousel made its way to the Supreme Court where attorney Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. argued that the justices should rule the convictions for trespassing were invalid. In 1964, the Court found that Collins was acting as an agent of the County to enforce private segregation and thereby his actions were illegal when he placed the five under arrest.

Kennedy Fails to Keep Promises

Sit-In Vets Demand Civil Rights Legislation: 1960

Veterans of lunch counter sit-ins picket the White House August 15, 1960 demanding action on a civil rights bill.

After tabling the civil rights legislation, Congress also declined to pass a minimum wage increase. The legislative process had failed all participants in the Glen Echo protests in 1960.

Kennedy turned the tables on Nixon by securing much of the African American vote when Wofford convinced him to make a private phone call to Coretta Scott King in October 1960. Mrs. King was expecting a child any day while her husband languished in a Fulton County, Ga. jail. Kennedy expressed sympathy for Mrs. King’s plight and aides promptly leaked the conversation to the press.

The press asked Republican nominee Richard Nixon about King’s jailing and he responded “no comment.” King was released from jail shortly afterward and the word of Kennedy’s unprecedented phone call by a major presidential candidate and King’s subsequent release spread like wildfire through the black community.

Rev. King Sr. quickly switched his endorsement from Nixon to Kennedy and Abernathy urged African Americans to put away their Nixon buttons and vote for Kennedy. Kennedy won the 1960 election by the narrowest of margins, bolstered by an estimated 70% of the African American vote. But he quickly forgot his promise to introduce a major civil rights initiative as the first order of business for his administration.

It would be three years after his initial commitment before he put any weight behind a meaningful bill and another year before it passed Congress under President Lyndon Johnson. In the meantime, the Klan’s terrorist murders, government enforcement of segregation and police violence rained down on civil rights activists.

Henry Continues Activism

Henry continued his civil rights activism with NAG, regaining a leadership position as chair of the planning committee. A young Howard student named Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) joined NAG and began working with Henry on actions. Carmichael would go onto head SNCC and becoming the leading black power spokesperson of his era. Henry organized several hundred people to picket the White House on Nov. 8th –Election Day 1960—around four demands:

  • Compliance with the 1954 Supreme Court ruling desegregating schools.
  • Free elections in the South and Washington, D.C.
  • Complete integration of public accommodations and businesses that receive government contracts.
  • Change the Senate and House rules to remove the filibuster and other obstacles to truly meaningful civil rights laws.
Harris Wofford replies May 29, 1961 to Laurence Henry's request for a meeting.

On May 29, 1961, Harris Wofford offers to meet with Laurence Henry.

In the spring of 1961, Henry sought a White House meeting between the President’s office and direct action rights activists. He received an invitation from his old adversary Wofford who wrote,

…I have heard of your work for a long time and would personally like to meet and talk with you.

Henry later took part in the civil rights marches on Selma and in Montgomery Alabama. He also worked for several years as a freelance photographer documenting civil rights struggles and leaders like Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., growing particularly close to Malcolm.

Henry was beaten within inches of his life in Chester, Pa. by white racists while photographing 1964 civil rights demonstrations in the Philadelphia suburb.

Laurence Henry photo of Malcolm X: 1964

Laurence Henry photo of Malcolm X. Malcolm reportedly “loved it.”

He traveled to the Dominican Republic in 1965 and interviewed Lt. Col. Montest Arache who was then leading the fight against a U.S. invasion of that country. Upon his return, he was treated like an enemy by the U.S. government.

After working on the family run black-oriented publication NOW!, he soon turned back to his divinity degree and returned to Philadelphia where he became a community leader and founder and pastor of Christ Community Baptist Church in Philadelphia before he died in 1980.


Author’s notes: Many activists from that period also knew Henry by his brother Imari Obadele who, until his death in 2010, was president of the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Africa, an organization attempting to turn five Southern states into an independent black nation.

The effort by liberals to depose Henry was one of many such incidents in the civil rights movement that would lead many African Americans to abandon their alliance with white liberals and form a black power movement later in the decade.

The Best Cup of Coffee: Arlington, Virginia 1960

Laurence Henry (far right) joins others for a victory cup of desegregated coffee in Arlington, VA on June 23, 1960.

Time proved Laurence Henry’s stance against tabling Dirksen’s bill in 1960 correct. No major legislation was initiated by the administration until 1963 and that legislation languished in Congress for a year before it passed in the wake the Birmingham, Alabama church bombing that killed four young girls and the murders of three civil rights workers in Mississippi, two of whom were white.

There is no doubt that white liberals contributed critical support in the immediate victory at Glen Echo. Their support, however, came with a price of inaction at a higher level. Activists in the Black Lives Matter movement today are faced with a similar quandary and must carefully consider the pros and cons of enlisting institutional support.

Sources include The Washington Post, The Washington Star, The Baltimore Afro, Ebony, The Indianapolis Recorder, Now!, The Cincinnati Herald, The Gazette, Washington Jewish Week, The Civil Rights Digital Library, The Clarence Mitchell Papers, and The Global Non-Violent Action Database, among others.


ADDENDUM I

Seeds of the Black Power Movement

Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) Delivering a Speech: 1965

Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) in 1965.

The federal government continued its ambivalent commitment to civil rights, sometimes intervening in local cases, but declining to take a comprehensive approach after the 1960 elections.

NAG continued its activism and in the fall of 1960 and a freshman named Stokely Carmichael (later Kwame Ture) joined the Non-Violent Action Group that was by then affiliated with the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee. H. Rap Brown (later Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin) also joined. Both would become chairs of SNCC and black power advocates.

Carmichael (Ture) leads sit-in at RFK's office: 1962

Stokely Carmichael (3rd from left) leads a sit in at Atty. Gen. Robert F. Kennedy’s office March 16, 1962.

Carmichael worked with Henry following the latter’s removal from leadership of NAG and was undoubtedly aware of Henry’s desire to confront Democrats who paid lip service to civil rights progress while taking no action.

Where Henry was thwarted in 1960, Carmichael seized the opportunity to do so in February 1962 when NAG activist Dion Diamond was arrested for “criminal anarchy” (attempting to overthrow the government) for attempting to speak at Southern University in Louisiana. Carmichael organized a sit-in at U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s office and was forcibly evicted, but drew attention to the passive nature of the federal government in the face of brutal repression and use of state apparatus in the suppression of civil rights.

SNCC Chair Censored in 1963

March on Washington: 1963

Tents are ready for March on Washington Aug. 27, 1963.

Liberal attempts to restrain and utilize the African American civil rights movement for their own purposes were widespread and the most publicized incident occurred when the Kennedy administration insisted on censoring Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee chair John Lewis speech at the 1963 March for Jobs and Freedom.

The Kennedy administration shifted positions from trying to ignore civil rights to finding a way to co-opt the movement into support for the administration. Administration liaison Burke Marshall demanded support for a weak Kennedy civil rights initiative and insisted that Lewis drop references to marching through the south like Sherman.

Protest organizers faced a larger problem when copies of SNCC Chairman John Lewis’ speech were circulated. In the prepared text, Lewis expressed opposition to an administration backed civil rights bill, derided those who urged patience and talked about “the revolution is at hand.” There was particularly strong objection to this passage:

We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own ‘scorched earth’ policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground – nonviolently. We shall fragment the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy.

Patrick O’Boyle, the archbishop of Washington, who was scheduled to deliver the invocation, objected to Lewis’ speech and threatened to not only walk out, but to take all Catholics with him if the speech was given. John Lewis said he would deliver the speech as written or not at all.

Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers told coalition members,

If John Lewis feels strongly that he wants to make this speech, he can go someplace else and make it, but he has no right to make it here because if he tries to make it he destroys the integrity of our coalition and he drives people out of the coalition who agree to the principles…This is just immoral and he has no right to do it, and I demand a vote right now because I have to call the archbishop.

Lewis dropped the incendiary words and gave a modified speech, but the incident galvanized resentment by black activists toward white liberals. Within a few years, Willie Ricks and Carmichael were popularizing the slogan “Black Power” in 1966 and a large segment of the African American civil rights movement broke away from white liberal influence.


ADDENDUM II

Recognition of the Murdered

The following is a partial list of those murdered by others seeking continued subjugation of black people from the time of inaction on the Dirksen amendments until the 1968 Fair Housing Act was enacted. It is excerpted from a longer list compiled by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

September 25, 1961 · Liberty, Mississippi

Herbert Lee, who worked with civil rights leader Bob Moses to help register black voters, was killed by a state legislator who claimed self-defense and was never arrested. Louis Allen, a black man who witnessed the murder, was later also killed.

April 9, 1962 · Taylorsville, Mississippi

Cpl. Roman Ducksworth Jr., a military police officer stationed in Maryland, was on leave to visit his sick wife when he was ordered off a bus by a police officer and shot dead. The police officer may have mistaken Ducksworth for a “freedom rider” who was testing bus desegregation laws.

September 30, 1962 · Oxford, Mississippi

Paul Guihard, a reporter for a French news service, was killed by gunfire from a white mob during protests over the admission of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.

April 23, 1963 · Attalla, Alabama William Lewis Moore, a postman from Baltimore, was shot and killed during a one-man march against segregation. Moore had planned to deliver a letter to the governor of Mississippi urging an end to intolerance.

June 12, 1963 · Jackson, Mississippi Medgar Evers, who directed NAACP operations in Mississippi, was leading a campaign for integration in Jackson when he was shot and killed by a sniper at his home.

September 15, 1963 · Birmingham, Alabama Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were getting ready for church services when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing all four of the school-age girls. The church had been a center for civil rights meetings and marches.

September 15, 1963 · Birmingham, Alabama Virgil Lamar Ware, 13, was riding on the handlebars of his brother’s bicycle when he was fatally shot by white teenagers. The white youths had come from a segregationist rally held in the aftermath of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing.

January 31, 1964 · Liberty, Mississippi Louis Allen, who witnessed the murder of civil rights worker Herbert Lee, endured years of threats, jailings and harassment. He was making final arrangements to move north on the day he was killed.

March 23, 1964 · Jacksonville, Florida Johnnie Mae Chappell was murdered as she walked along a roadside. Her killers were white men looking for a black person to shoot following a day of racial unrest.

April 7, 1964 · Cleveland, Ohio Rev. Bruce Klunder was among civil rights activists who protested the building of a segregated school by placing their bodies in the way of construction equipment. Klunder was crushed to death when a bulldozer backed over him.

May 2, 1964 · Meadville, Mississippi Henry Hezekiah Dee and Charles Eddie Moore were killed by Klansmen who believed the two were part of a plot to arm blacks in the area. (There was no such plot.) Their bodies were found during a massive search for the missing civil rights workers Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner.

June 21, 1964 · Philadelphia, Mississippi James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner, young civil rights workers, were arrested by a deputy sheriff and then released into the hands of Klansmen who had plotted their murders. They were shot, and their bodies were buried in an earthen dam.

JULY 2, 1964 Civil Rights Act

July 18, 1965 · Anniston, Alabama Willie Brewster was on his way home from work when he was shot and killed by white men. The men belonged to the National States Rights Party, a violent neo-Nazi group whose members had been involved in church bombings and murders of blacks.

AUGUST 6, 1965 VOTING RIGHTS ACT

August 20, 1965 · Hayneville, Alabama Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal Seminary student in Boston, had come to Alabama to help with black voter registration in Lowndes County. He was arrested at a demonstration, jailed in Hayneville and then suddenly released. Moments after his release, he was shot to death by a deputy sheriff.

January 3, 1966 · Tuskegee, Alabama Samuel Leamon Younge Jr., a student civil rights activist, was fatally shot by a white gas station owner following an argument over segregated restrooms.

January 10, 1966 · Hattiesburg, Mississippi Vernon Ferdinand Dahmer, a wealthy businessman, offered to pay poll taxes for those who couldn’t afford the fee required to vote. The night after a radio station broadcasted Dahmer’s offer, his home was firebombed. Dahmer died later from severe burns.

June 10, 1966 · Natchez, Mississippi Ben Chester White, who had worked most of his life as a caretaker on a plantation, had no involvement in civil rights work. He was murdered by Klansmen who thought they could divert attention from a civil rights march by killing a black person.

July 30, 1966 · Bogalusa, Louisiana Clarence Triggs was a bricklayer who had attended civil rights meetings sponsored by the Congress of Racial Equality. He was found dead on a roadside, shot through the head.

February 27, 1967 · Natchez, Mississippi Wharlest Jackson, the treasurer of his local NAACP chapter, was one of many blacks who received threatening Klan notices at his job. After Jackson was promoted to a position previously reserved for whites, a bomb was planted in his car. It exploded minutes after he left work one day, killing him instantly.

May 12, 1967 · Jackson, Mississippi Benjamin Brown, a former civil rights organizer, was watching a student protest from the sidelines when he was hit by stray gunshots from police who fired into the crowd.

February 8, 1968 · Orangeburg, South Carolina Samuel Ephesians Hammond Jr., Delano Herman Middleton and Henry Ezekial Smith were shot and killed by police who fired on student demonstrators at the South Carolina State College campus.

April 4, 1968 · Memphis, Tennessee Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Baptist minister, was a major architect of the Civil Rights Movement. He led and inspired major non-violent desegregation campaigns, including those in Montgomery and Birmingham. He won the Nobel peace prize. He was assassinated as he prepared to lead a demonstration in Memphis.

APRIL 11, 1968 FAIR HOUSING ACT


Want to see and read more?

See more photos of the Glen Echo protests

See more photos of the Arlington restaurant sit-ins

Read about NAG member Dion Diamond and see more images

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Raging civil rights struggle leads to union victories: Cambridge MD 1963

31 May
Gloria Richardson: 1964 ca # 2

Gloria Richardson, leader of the Cambridge movement, 1963-64.

By Daniel Hardin

In the midst of ongoing fist fights, rock throwing and gun battles between white segregationists and African American seeking civil rights in 1963 Cambridge, Maryland, there was an astonishing phenomenon.

White workers sought black leadership to aid the struggle to organize and strengthen interracial unions in the town.

 Cambridge Struggle Breaks Mold

The Cambridge, Maryland. civil rights struggle from 1963-67 involved the longest occupation by armed forces of a U.S. town since Reconstruction and presents a far different narrative than that of the Civil Rights movement taught in schoolbooks today.

Early on, the leadership deviated from other concurrent civil rights struggles for legal equality by taking up social justice demands such as good jobs, housing, schools and health care. It was also different because it was an indigenous struggle to the town as opposed to one orchestrated by national rights leaders.

The leadership of the Cambridge Non-Violent Action Committee (CNAC) also did not reject armed self-defense. CNAC, which affiliated with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), was the only chapter led by adults and probably the only one whose principal strategist was a woman.

Much has been written about Cambridge elsewhere and a good blow-by-blow account can be found in Civil War on Race Street by Peter B. Levy.

However, less well-known is how in the midst of violent racial clashes between African Americans and whites in the town, white and black workers united behind the local civil rights leaders in their long quest to form labor unions there.

Background

Frederick Douglas: 1870 ca.

Frederick Douglas, abolitionist leader in the 19th century, was enslaved near Cambridge.

Cambridge, located on the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, was the trading center for the plantations that surrounded the area. The abolitionist and political leader Frederick Douglas was born on a plantation about 25 miles north of there. The underground railroad conductor Harriet Tubman was born about 10 miles south of Cambridge.

During most of the first half of the twentieth century, the Phillips Packing Company (a vegetable processing and packinghouse) dominated the town and surrounding farms that provided produce for the plant.

Harriett Tubman: 1911

Harriet Tubman, abolitionist, underground railroad conductor, and rights advocate, also escaped slavery near Cambridge.

Although Maryland is a border state, the economic and social relations were more akin to the Deep South. Racial segregation and prejudice were intense and poverty among both black and white workers was prevalent.

A promising interracial attempt at achieving economic justice began in 1937 when several thousand workers staged a strike at Phillips to form an interracial labor union in the midst of Jim Crow Cambridge.

The strike was defeated by owner Albanus Phillips who set up a company union to ward off the left-leaning CIO union.

A ten-year campaign by the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing & Allied Workers, CIO followed, but also ended in defeat. The union lost a close representation election supervised by the federal government in 1947 in the midst of accusations of communist leadership against the national cannery union.

Union Business Cambridge Strike 1937 – Hi-Res

1937 Phillips Packing Company strike.

Phillips’ company union became the hiring hall for nearly all the plants in Cambridge. Workers were screened for any independent union sympathies. Phillips remained a source of employment for black workers who generally had lower paying and less desirable jobs than white workers until the company’s decline in the mid to late 1950s.

Cambridge Movement Starts

By 1962 the Civil Rights movement was picking up steam around the country and an initial movement by students attempted to desegregate public facilities in Cambridge, a town of about 11,000 people at that time of whom about one-third were African American.

The initial protests were through peaceful picketing and sit-ins. A number of white racists attacked demonstrators but police often arrested the protesters.

These tactics produced few results until 1963 when a woman from a prominent black family in town, Gloria Richardson, was chosen to head up the movement and CNAC.

One of the first things Richardson did was conduct a survey of the black community to help determine priorities. Data were collected door-to-door and analyzed by faculty at Swarthmore College. In a 1994 interview by Peter Szabo, Richardson recalled,

I forget now which was first. What it ultimately meant to us was that we were going to have to attack the whole thing [effects of segregation] at one time-the housing, the health, because it made very little difference. I think maybe health may have come first and housing second, and schools, but it wasn’t that much difference when those compilations came back.

Demand Equality, Jobs & Freedom in Cambridge MD: 1963

1963 Cambridge MD picket line demanding jobs, equality and freedom.

Much to the chagrin of established black leaders, Richardson changed the focus of the protests to demand both economic and social equality—targeting discrimination in employment, poor wages, inferior schools and health care and segregated facilities.

As more militant tactics–such as a boycott of white owned businesses—and new demands were employed, white resistance also increased.

Two 15-year-old students, Dwight Cromwell and Dinez White, were arrested for praying outside a segregated facility. Both were sentenced to indeterminate sentences in a juvenile facility—meaning they could be held for up to six years.

The sentences outraged the black community and increasingly large marches were held that were in turn met by white mobs. State troopers were present, but mostly sided with the white demonstrators.

Armed Self-Defense

At this point, the philosophy of non-violent resistance moved to a philosophy of armed self-defense of the black community in Cambridge. Herbert St. Clair, a prominent African American businessman active in the movement said, according to Peter Levy,

We are not going to initiate violence. But if we are attacked, we are not going to turn the other cheek.

On June 13, 1963 another mass civil rights march was held, this time with armed black men protecting the demonstrators and setting up a perimeter around the black community.

The following night fighting broke out between whites and blacks that included an exchange of gunshots and several people were wounded. Some white businesses were set on fire and when police attempted to enter the black ward, they were driven back by rocks and gunshots fired into the air.

Gloria Richardson: 1964 ca # 1

Gloria Richardson in an undated photograph.

Gloria Richardson noted in 1994,

There were some people at SNCC that [saw non-violence] really, almost as a religion, and that whole Gandhi concept. I never saw it as that. I saw it as a tactic, because certainly you couldn’t start out picking up guns running out in the street or you’d be slaughtered.

But, to create as much chaos as you could with it [non-violence], and if violence was perpetuated against you, that as long as there wasn’t a demonstration going on, you had the right to defend yourself.

It was the men that protected the community, and had to lay out in those fields with guns all night. They understood exactly what was going on and so did the women. Those men that thought they could be non-violent enough to go in the marches did. Those that didn’t did other things.

Cambridge Protester Helped from Scene of Beating: 1963

One of six youths beaten by whites during a sit-in is helped away from the scene.

The administration of Gov. Milliard J. Tawes offered a plan of gradual desegregation that was rejected by CNAC. Tawes then sent in the National Guard for three weeks.

Following withdrawal of the Guard, CNAC resumed protests. On July 12th, a mob of whites attacked a half-dozen protesters sitting in at a restaurant. A brawl ensued as black residents fought back. Later that night a white mob attacked another civil rights march.

When night riders attempted to enter black neighborhoods, they were met with gunfire and shots were exchanged. Twelve white people were wounded by gunfire and some white owned-stores were set on fire.

Cambridge Rally Against Indeterminate Sentences: 1963

Protest in the African American section of Cambridge July, 12 1963.

The Baltimore Afro-American wrote:

For what seemed like an eternity the Second Ward [the predominantly African American area] was a replica of the Old West as men and boys of all ages roamed the streets, stood in the shadows, and leaned out of windows with their weapons in full view.

Gov. Tawes sent the National Guard back in, and they remained for almost two years—the longest occupation of any community since the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. Civil rights activists staging protests were seized and sent to the Pikesville, Maryland Armory 90 miles away for “protective custody.”

 Human Rights, Not White Rights

Guard Moves On Cambridge Rights Protest: 1964

Guard moves to break up protest demanding jobs and aid to low income families February 1964.

Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy brokered a settlement whereby CNAC would suspend protests in return for an end to segregation in public accommodations, desegregation of public schools, construction of public housing, and implementation of a jobs program funded by the Federal government. Kennedy also worked to free Dwight Cromwell and Dinez White after three months in the juvenile prison.

The agreement broke down almost immediately when the all-white Dorchester Business and Citizens Association filed referendum petitions to overturn the agreement.

CNAC leader Gloria Richardson took a principled, but controversial stance, when she announced that CNAC would not take part in the referendum. She said, according to Theoharis and Woodard,

A first-class citizen does not beg for freedom. A first-class citizen does not plead to the white power structure to give him something that the whites have no power to give or take away. Human rights are human rights, not white rights.

In October 1963, the racists won the referendum. In the end the white segregationists had bought nine months of continued legal segregation before the passage of the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act.

 Unity from Below

Preventive Detention for Cambridge Rights Protesters: 1964

Cambridge protesters under preventive detention at the Pikesville Armory in February 1964.

The civil rights campaign and the vote had unanticipated effects that threatened the power structure in town in new ways. Poor and working class whites began to seek out civil rights leaders for help.

After the vote failed to end segregation, African American Congressman from New York Adam Clayton Powell arranged for food and other supplies to be delivered to Cambridge.

Richardson remembered in 1994,

The people [authorities] in Cambridge refused to distribute [the food], so the [National] Guard distributed it.

At that time what happened is white folks started calling us on the telephone telling us that they were on welfare and they needed food, but they [racist leaders] had told them that if they went out and got any of that food, or if they saw them on the lines, they were either gonna fire them or take them off welfare or whatever… and that they couldn’t come, and what could they do?

CNAC proceeded to get cars and loaded them up with food … and went and took the food to them. Subsequently, I think they finally got enough nerve to begin to come out.

 Interracial Union Organizing

Gloria Richardson brushes off National Guard: 1963

Gloria Richardson unfazed by National Guard during Cambridge civil rights protests.

The fight over segregation also led to the victories in union organizing that had failed in the decade 1937-1947. Richardson related in the 1994 interview,

What had happened was we had gone to a couple of meetings over on the other side of town where union organizers had come down from New York, and we had gone in to fight for black folk. And then when we got there, we ended up fighting for them all, because while there were some black folks in there to stand up and voice their complaints, the white folks would stand but they would come up and just go, ‘Would you tell me about that [the civil rights struggle] …?’

You know, it was weird, it was mind boggling. So then everybody stood up and said, ‘She’s gonna stay.’ So, it’s really very strange because we also were fighting these other things that probably most of them, I would assume most of them, didn’t want to go on, in terms of desegregation.

But that was because black and white people both needed more money and needed a union rather than each of them fighting for the other’s job…. They were working together and they had to come out to the black community in order to meet [at the black Rod & Gun Club]. That was the meat packers union…

The United Packing House Workers of America drive at the Coastal Foods plant (the successor company to Phillips Packing Co.) was successful with the support of CNAC.

Leadership Intertwined

Peter Levy noted how the union leadership and the struggle for civil rights were intertwined.

Leroy Banks spearheaded the organizing campaign inside the Coastal Foods Plant and was subsequently elected head of the local. His wife, Marva Banks, served as CNAC’s first treasurer.

CNAC leader Enez Grubb’s relatives had a history of labor activism dating back to the Phillips plant.

Grubb’s own father quit working at the Phillips Packing Company during World War II because the company union treated German prisoners of war who worked in the plants better than it treated native blacks.

Women Strikers in Cambridge Md.: 1937 – Hi-Res

Some activists had relatives who had been active during the 1937 strike at Phillips.

Still others had relatives who had been active in the 1937 strike at Phillips.

George Cephas had been killed during the 1937 uprising. Gilbert Cephas beame a leader in the local union. Still other civil rights and student activists found work with the UPWA.

“All the Way with UPWA” became a slogan for activists. Civil rights volunteers worked the picket lines during the campaign, helping to convince migratory workers not to cross the picket lines.

After the winning drive at Coastal food, District 6 of the UPWA invited Richardson to their convention in New York City where she was greeted with renditions of civil rights songs. In return, Richardson gave a unequivocal pro-union speech, according to Levy.

Proclaiming that a revived labor movement was one of the keys to uplifting workers, especially African Americans, she [Richardson] pledged her continued cooperation with the union.

The unionization of Coastal was followed with successful campaigns at Maryland Tuna and Chun King.

The UPWA drive aggravated the differences between white “moderates” and CNAC. Those whites, mainly medium and large business owners, saw Cambridge’s non-union status as a boon to businesses. Some prominent African American in town were not happy with the unionization drives either. However, both black and white workers overwhelmingly supported UPWA’s drive for higher wages that in turn addressed issues of inequality.

White Garment Workers Stand with CNAC

Maryland Tuna Plant: 1955 ca. #1

The production line of Maryland Tuna Co. in 1955. The civil rights struggle in Cambridge, Md. led to its unionization in 1964.

In another instance, CNAC took up the plight of garment workers at the Rob Roy factory. The International Ladies Garment Workers Union had negotiated lower rates for Cambridge workers as compared to the Rob Roy facilities in New York City that were doing the same work. Richardson said, according to Faith Holseart,

The Cambridge local had both black and white members, but because of segregation, they didn’t usually meet together. But this time the black trade unionists, with support from white workers, asked us [CNAC] to come to the meetings.

For one large meeting of about two to three hundred people, ILGWU headquarters in New York sent people down who supported the wage discrepancy. In the heat of the conflict over this issue, the New York representatives red-baited me [accused of being a communist] and moved to put me out of the meeting.

When they did that, surprisingly, local white ILGWU members who in the day before civil rights demonstrations probably had been throwing stones at us, got up and said, ‘Oh, no. If she goes, all of us go.’

Richardson remembered in an interview with Joseph Mosnier that the white men in the union were afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation by white authorities in Cambridge and asked CNAC if the black men could speak for them.

CNAC representatives, relating the experiences of SNCC workers assisting a 1963 miners strike in Hazard, Kentucky, inspired the white workers to speak up.

Gloria Richardson: 1964 # 3

Gloria Richardson leading a civil rights march in Cambridge, Md in 1964.

Richardson received a visit from New York ILGWU representatives later that week at her home. She said in her interview with Holseart,

[They] told me they were going to call Jim Forman [the executive secretary of SNCC] and have him stop me from interfering with union business. I said, ‘Jim Foreman is not my boss, and he cannot tell me what to do.’

The union leaders responded, ‘Well somebody must be able to tell you, because you need to just stay out of Rob Roy. This isn’t your business.’ They went to far as to say, ‘And you better be careful.’

I replied, ‘Well you know, we are used to threats here. If you think you can get Jim Foreman to get us to stop, you go right ahead.’ I didn’t hear anything more about that from them.

In these instances, white workers were inspired by the CNAC campaign and recognized the power and leadership that it represented.

Black and white unity was achieved on this level not by Robert Kennedy’s intervention, but by the recognition by white workers that the black struggle for freedom represented new power that could benefit them also.

Aftermath

Following the 1962-64 protests, some federal dollars began to flow into Cambridge for parks, schools, streets, public housing and other projects. However, problems in Cambridge were not erased by the passage of civil rights legislation and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs.

Discrimination continued despite the legal end of segregation. The Cambridge economy was also continuing to slide and African Americans were faring worse in the slumping town than whites.

As protests picked up in 1967 CNAC, now named the Cambridge Black Action Federation, decided to invite H. Rap Brown (Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin) to speak on black power. Brown was chair of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and an outspoken advocate of black power who no longer believed that non-violent change was possible.

CNAC turned to Richardson who had moved to New York City with her new husband in late 1964, but still had relatives living in Cambridge. She knew Brown and invited him to speak in the town.

Brown spoke on July 24, 1967 to a crowd of several hundred people in the African American section of town.

1967 Uprising

H. ‘Rap’ Brown Speaks to Cambridge MD Crowd: 1967

H. ‘Rap’ Brown gives a speech July 24, 1967 to several hundred in Cambridge, Maryland.

Brown gave a fiery speech on black pride, a critique of U.S. white society and willingness of black people to fight for a better life.

Brown stayed in town for another hour or two and at one point escorted a young woman home along with several others. A shot was fired at Brown who was hit by a shotgun pellet, then gunfire began to be exchanged between white gunmen and black shooters.

At one point a carload of whites sped through the black section of town indiscriminately firing weapons.

Scene of the Pine Street Fire in Cambridge: 1967

Aftermatch of the Pine Street fire in Cambridge, Maryland  July 25, 1967.

In the early morning hours, someone set fire to the Pine Street Elementary School in the African American area of town. The white fire department refused to answer the call, and as a result two blocks and 20 buildings in the black section of town burned to the ground.

While the fire was burning, Richardson desperately tried to get help.

I had to end up calling his [National Guard Commander Gelsten’s] wife, who had just talked to him and everything was quiet … I had to finally tell her, ‘My daughter is there, Miss, she’s calling me, the firemen didn’t come in, the coals are flying all over,’ and she finally called him. And then somebody called me from the press and told me that the Guard was on its way….

I think it was finally some people way down, what we consider really racist part of the county, that let them have a fire truck. Because the city wouldn’t.

Throw Away the Key

Guard Arrives in Cambridge: 1967

Maryland National Guard arrives in Cambridge for the third time in four years July 25, 1967.

Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew again mobilized the National Guard and showed up in town the next day saying, “”I hope they pick him [Brown] up soon, put him away and throw away the key.”

Brown was soon charged with inciting to riot, among other charges, and ultimately arrested by the FBI on additional charges of fleeing prosecution and a weapons violation. Brown was scheduled to go to trial on the riot charge in Maryland in March 1970.

On March 9, 1970 two SNCC officials, Ralph Featherstone and William (“Che”) Payne, died on U.S. Route 1 south of Bel Air, Maryland when a bomb on the front floorboard of their car exploded, completely destroying the car and dismembering both occupants. The next night the Cambridge courthouse was bombed.

Brown disappeared for 18 months before being arrested on unrelated charges. The Cambridge “inciting to riot” charge was ultimately dropped.

Cambridge Afterwards

State Police Patrol Cambridge Streets: 1967

Maryland state police patrol Cambridge, Maryland July 25, 1967.

The five-year mass movement in Cambridge ended in the aftermath of the 1967 uprising. Federal representatives offered aid, but Agnew refused to accept it. Richardson remembered that,

Anything else that was left over from the two years or three years before-got agreement on it from Washington … Agnew stopped it. That was it. They did not control him like they did Tawes, and it fell apart at that point. … I think the [federal] government was sincere at that time, but it was just that Agnew said no. He hated Rap Brown. He hated Stokely Carmichael.

Richardson remembered that when Agnew came to town the day after the fire, he maligned all African Americans in the town.

[He said] ‘These were thugs.’ He made the mistake of standing up and calling them thugs. That’s after they’d been up all night long trying to put out the fires.

Agnew went on to further his career seeking to pit white voters against African Americans. Ironically he had initially been elected governor of Maryland when liberals flocked to him in 1964 in opposition to Democrat candidate George Mahoney’s slogan, “Your home is your castle,” a call for resistance to open housing legislation.

Agnew was chosen by Richard Nixon to be his vice-presidential candidate in 1968 and became the mouthpiece for Nixon’s “law and order” crusade against left-leaning African Americans and white antiwar activists.

The hypocrisy of the Nixon/Agnew campaign was revealed when Agnew was forced to resign the vice-presidency in 1973 because he was facing corruption charges and Nixon resigned the presidency in 1974 after his cover-up of crimes committed during the Watergate scandal.

The Pine Street neighborhood, once thriving, has never recovered. As the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries became increasingly polluted and overfished and economic changes made vegetable production less profitable, most of the packinghouses throughout Maryland closed.

While legal segregation ended, economic conditions and opportunities for the vast majority of African Americans in Cambridge improved briefly in the mid 1960s, but little over the subsequent decades.


Author’s Notes

As the Black Lives Matters movement today increasingly makes connections to economic and social repression, it opens the possibility of the movement expanding its influence by taking up the economic and social struggles much in the way Richardson’s CNAC was able to extend its influence and leadership to build more powerful organization.

Unions, besieged today with relentless attacks, have in large part stood on the sidelines of the movement against unwarranted police violence. Perhaps both movements would do well to apply some of the lessons drawn from a small Maryland town some 50 years ago.

The sources for this post include Civil War on Race Street by Peter Levy; Groundwork: Local Black Freedom Movements in America by Jeanne Theoharis and Komozi Woodard; Hands on the Freedom Plow by Faith Holseart; Transcript of H. “Rap” Brown’s 1967 Cambridge Speech by Lawrence Peskin and Dawn Almes; Oral History Project interview with Gloria Richardson with Joseph Mosnie, 2011; Maryland Historical Magazine, Fall 1994; The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore Afro-American among others.


Postscript

H ‘Rap’ Brown at Press Conference: 1967

H. ‘Rap’ Brown at a press conference two days after his Cambridge speech. Bandage from  shotgun wound is visible.

Some excerpts of H. Rap Brown’s (Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin) 1967 speech in Cambridge:

On the word black:

It takes a lot of effort to love black in America. You’ve been told all your life if you’re black, you’re wrong. If you’re black, there’s something wrong with you. They tell you black cows don’t give good milk; black hens don’t lay eggs. Devil’s food cakes. You know, you put on black to go to funerals. When you put on white you go to weddings.

On taking on the white power structure:

They run around and tell you: “Don’t start no fight with the honky pecker `cause you can’t win. He outnumber you. Hell! Don’t you know they always outnumber us? David was outnumbered when he fought Goliath. He was outnumbered. Hell! Daniel in the lion’s den was outnumbered. Moses was outnumbered. All of us is outnumbered. That don’t make no difference.

FBI Wanted Poster for H. ‘Rap’ Brown: 1967

FBI wanted poster for H. Rap Brown following his Cambridge, Maryland speech in 1967.

On looting that occurs during an uprising:

He run around and he talk about black people looting. Hell, he the biggest looter in the world. He looted us from Africa. He looted America from Indians. Man can you tell me about looting? You can’t steal from a thief. This is the biggest thief going.

On President Lyndon Johnson:

Now we’re gonna talk about Lyndon Johnson. Lyndon Johnson is the greatest outlaw going. He is a two-gun cracker. He killing black folks here and he killing them in Vietnam. That’s Lyndon Johnson, your President. That’s who he is.

And they talk about how bad Hitler was. At least before Hitler burned the Jews he killed them with gas. Lyndon Johnson is throwing napalm on human beings in Vietnam. Burning them to death. He burning babies. He burning hospitals. He can’t be nothing but an outlaw.

Any time a man sends a plane full of napalm over a village of children, over school houses and blow them up and burn children, believe me, brother, the only reason he do it is because the Viet Cong is black, too.

Closing Remarks:

He’s [white man] been running around here letting them do everything they want. I mean, don’t be trying to love that honkey to death. Shoot him to death. Shoot him to death, brother. ‘Cause that’s what he’s out to do to you.

‘Do to him like he would do to you, but do it to him first.’ Like I said in the beginning, if this town don’t come ‘round, this town should be burned down. It should be burned down, brother.

They going to have to live in the same stuff I live in ’cause I ain’t going to make it no better for them. But do this brother — don’t burn up your own stuff. Don’t tear up your own stuff. Whenever you decide to fight the man, take it to his battleground.

One thing that man respects. It’s money. That’s his god. When you tear down his store, you hit his religion. You hit him right where it hurt him on Sunday. In his pocket. That’s his best friend. In his pocket. So, when you move to get him, don’t tear up your stuff, don’t tear up your brother’s store, hear?


Want to see and read more?

Images of Cambridge, MD: 1963-67

Civil Rights images in Maryland

The 1937 Phillips Packinghouse Strike

The 1938 Maryland Crab Pickers Strike


A Million & Counting…

15 Feb

One million photo views and counting on our Flickr site. We’re frankly surprised at the interest in the history of the struggle for social and economic justice in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

Each photo has a short description. Groups of related photos are organized into albums. Each album–sometimes a specific event and sometimes a group of related images–have a longer description that puts the images in context. We also publish this blog for a deep dive look behind selected images.

You can see our photo stream organized by date the image was uploaded or check out individual albums. Check out our in-depth blog posts that are organized by the decade (on right of this page or simply scroll down).

Some of our most popular photo albums are:

Blacks, Whites Protest Job Losses: 1930 No. 2D.C. Protests Against Unemployment:

The first nationwide response to the Great Depression occurred March 6, 1930, including a picket line at the White House in Washington, D.C. Looking for more unemployment protests? 1935, 1937, 1940, 1973, 1977.

 

Harassment at Arlington, Virginia Sit-In: 1960

1960s Civil Rights Protests in the D.C. Area:

District of Columbia public accommodations were largely integrated in the mid 1950s but the surrounding suburbs remained bastions of segregation. Arlington, Rockville, Bowie, Glen Echo, Bethesda, College Park, Silver Spring were but a few of the towns that saw sit-ins, pickets and arrests demanding equality. Read a brief biography of one of these pioneers, Dion Diamond.

Klan Protests Black Minister In Camp Springs MD: 1966The Fight Against the Klan and Nazis in the D.C. area:

The Ku Klux Klan was active throughout the 1960s opposing civil rights and antiwar efforts (one person’s experience). So too was the American Nazi Party. See photos of confrontation in Arlington, Glen Echo, Mt. Ranier, Camp Springs, Frederick and Rising Sun.

 

 

March for Capital Transit Jobs: 1943 (Photo 16)The Washington, D.C. Area Transit Union:

Interest has been high in the struggle to desegregate Washington’s transit system (background story), women streetcar and bus operators during World War II (background story), and in strikes conducted by member of the Amalgamated Transit Union in 1974 and 1978. As the 100th anniversary of ATU Local 689 approaches, check back in the coming year as we post images from early efforts in 19th century to form a union and strikes in 1916, 1917, 1945, 1951 and 1955.

Increasingly Viewed

Negro Congress Pickets Bilbo: 1946

Civil Rights Struggles before 1960: 

Little known today, they helped lay the groundwork for the mass demonstrations, boycotts, sit-ins, pickets and other forms of protest that broke down the worst aspects of segregation in our area: 1922 Anti-Lynching Protest (background story), 1933 March for Scottsboro (background story), 1936 Police Brutality Protests (background story), 1940 Gone with the Wind pickets, 1941 Police Brutality Protest (background story), Integration of D.C. Theaters (background story), The Fight for Fair Employment, The Fight Against the Poll Tax, 1946 Protests Against Sen.Bilbo, 1946 Anti-Lynching Protests, the effort to Free Willie McGee and the Martinsville 7, Mary Church Terrell, the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, among others.

U of MD Ignites: 1970 # 1

Anti-Vietnam War Demonstrations:

The movement against the Vietnam War involved hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Check out the first mass marches on D.C in 1965, The march on the Pentagon in 1967, The Counter-Inaugural in 1969 (background story), University of Md protests in 1970 (background story), 1971, 1972, Mayday protests to shut down the government in 1971 – May 1, May 2, May 3, May 4, May 5, a 1972 march on the Pentagon and 1972 rally downtown, the 1973 Counter-Inaugural and the last demonstration against the Vietnam War in D.C. in 1975. See earlier 1941 and 1958 antiwar protests.

Background

We felt there was historical gap between the internet era and the print era in the struggles for social justice.

We started by publishing photos and negatives that had been improperly stored from the 1972-1975 Montgomery Spark, Washington Area Spark and On The Move tabloid newspapers.  We followed up by researching images available from various sources including the Library of Congress, the D.C. Public Library, the National Archives and auctioned photographs. And occasionally we publish longer blog posts that give a more detailed look.

See all the images in albums or in the order they were posted.

Crazy Dion Diamond: A 1960 Rights Warrior in the Suburbs

20 Jan
Bravery at Arlington Lunch Counter: 1960

Dion Diamond sits calmly while Nazi Party chief George Lincoln Rockwell hurls racial insults at 1960 Arlington, Virginia Drug Fair sit-in. Photo by Gus Chinn, courtesy DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.


Campaign in Arlington, Virginia

Dion Diamond was one of a small interracial group that broke Jim Crow’s back in the Washington, DC suburbs in 1960.

The sit-in movement in the area began June 9, 1960 at a People’s Drug Store counter at Lee Highway and Old Dominion Drive in Arlington, Virginia.

Thirteen people, seven African American and six white, were refused service and the management closed the counter. Half the group, including 19-year-old Howard University student Diamond, then moved to the Drug Fair at 5401 Lee Highway, where they were also refused service.

However, this time a crowd of white teenagers gathered to harass the group, who had named themselves the Non-Violent Action Group (NAG). Someone alerted the American Nazi Party, headquartered nearby at 928 North Randolph Street. Lit cigarettes and other items were tossed at those sitting-in.

No arrests were made until the next day when Diamond and Laurence Henry sought service at a Howard Johnson at 4700 Lee Highway. They were arrested there for trespassing.

Victory Within Two Weeks

While business, civic and political leaders negotiated, NAG held another round of sit-ins. The demonstrations resulted in victory on June 22 when five major Arlington businesses — including People’s and Drug Fair — announced the end of their segregated practices. The next day restaurants in Alexandria followed suit, and Fairfax County did the same shortly after.

The group then turned to the Glen Echo Amusement Park in Montgomery County, Maryland, and began picketing on June 30. The picketers were faced again by American Nazi Party-organized counter-demonstrations, arrests for trespassing, and police harassment. Diamond was among those arrested.

White neighbors in the nearby community of Bannockburn joined the desegregation protestors and helped sustain the picket line through the rest of the summer.

Confidence in the Cause: Glen Echo 1960

Dion Diamond braves counter-demonstrators organized by Nazis in Glen Echo, MD in 1960. Photo: Walter Oates, courtesy of DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

Jim Crow Falls in Maryland Suburbs

The demonstrations branched out to other suburban Maryland targets that summer, including the Hi-Boy restaurant at North Washington and Frederick Street in Rockville. Hi-Boy gave in after two weeks of picketing, sit-ins and arrests.

The Hiser Theater at 7414 Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda was the target of nearly 100 consecutive hours of picketing during one of the protests to mark the years that had passed since the Emancipation Proclamation.  Longtime owner John Hiser sold the theater in September and the new owners desegregated.  Picketers also targeted the Fair Lanes Bowling Alley in Hyattsville.

Glen Echo ended the 1960 season in the fall still segregated. During the off-season, however, under the cloud of lawsuits, political pressure and the threat of renewed picketing, the owners gave in and opened in 1961 as a desegregated facility.

The battle against Jim Crow at restaurants, theaters and amusement parks in Montgomery and Arlington was largely over, although sit-ins continued in Prince George’s County through 1962. Further, it wasn’t until 1966 that another group took on desegregation of housing in the Washington suburbs in an even tougher fight.

Diamond Heads South to Freedom Ride

When Diamond heard about the Trailways bus burning in the Spring of 1961 that nearly killed many in the first group of Freedom Riders in Anniston, Georgia, he quickly joined the second wave. He was arrested with others in Jackson, Mississippi for trying to integrate interstate transportation and was sent to the Mississippi State Prison in Parchman with the other riders.

Diamond served as a Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) field secretary in Mississippi and Louisiana from 1961-63. He was arrested more than 30 times during his civil rights activism, most famously at Southern University in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Several Southern students had joined in local desegregation demonstrations and were expelled from the historically black college by the administration. A student strike was organized and when Diamond arrived on campus to urge the students to continue resistance, he was placed under arrest for disorderly conduct.

To Overthrow the Government of Louisiana

The charges were changed to “criminal anarchy” – attempting to overthrow the government of Louisiana. Two other SNCC workers who visited Diamond in jail were also charged with insurrection…

…with force of arms, in the Parish of East Baton Rouge feloniously did… advocate in public and in private opposition to the Government of the State of Louisiana by unlawful means and are members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an organization which is known to the offenders to advocate, teach and practice opposition to the Government of the State of Louisiana by unlawful means.

Diamond’s bail was raised to $12,000 – an enormous sum at the time. Another young activist, 20-year-old Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael), led a sit-in at Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s office in Washington seeking Diamond’s release.

Bail was ultimately secured for Diamond and the criminal anarchy charges were dropped after a long fight, but Diamond did eventually serve 60 days in jail for the original disorderly conduct charge.

Diamond went back to school in the fall of 1963. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin and later received a degree from Harvard. He lives in Northwest Washington, DC.

Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) on Diamond:

Dion Diamond Freedom Rider Mugshot: 1961

Dion Diamond mug shot after Freedom Ride arrest in Jackson, Mississippi May 1961.

I had a lot of experience in jails since this time. But this one? Whoa, it was unforgettable. This one was very, very strange.

We’re in the cell, unable to get to sleep. About two o’clock in the morning we hear footsteps approaching. I turn over to see a young white cop staring at us. He’s holding a pump-action shotgun, which he loads. As he does this, he’s staring at us and cursing. Dion and I exchange glances. Now what?

“So you the two _____ ______ _____ little sons of bitches who started this, huh? Wal, tonight you some dead niggers. I’ma kill yore black _____ _____ _____.”

He cocks the gun, cursing all the while. His eyes are bloodshot and staring as he moves the gun back and forth. First on me, then on Dion.

We are frozen. Dion in one corner of the cell, me in the other. The gun swings from one to the other. The cop is ranting and cussing. I’m stiff as a board trying to watch the guy’s eyes, his trigger finger, and the yawning muzzle of the shotgun at the same time. I watch as it swings away and back over to Dion. Then I hear Dion’s mouth, I cannot believe my ears.

“Come on, you cracker so-and-so, shoot. Pull the damn trigger. Ain’t nobody scared of you. Shoot. I’m ready to die if you bad enough. Shoot, white man. Do it.”

Dion just goes off, and as I see from the corner of my eyes, he’s steadily advancing on the gun. A veritable torrent of language flowing out of his mouth, defiant, challenging, non-stop language. Talk about putting me through some changes.

One minute I’m sure I’m dead, the next I’m absolutely certain that I’ve gone out of my mind. I can’t believe Dion. I remember thinking, “F” God’s sake, Dion, shut up. Please. This man is drunk. He’s crazy. You fixing to get us killed, Dion.”

The cop stares at Dion, begins to tremble, and swings the gun back over to my corner. What could I do? Having no choice, I start up too.

“Yeah, cracker, go ahead. Pull the _____ trigger. We ready to die. Are you? Pull the trigger.”

The policeman really started to shake then. Which was, if anything, worse. Now two voices are coming at him. Silently he lowers the weapon, turns, and walks away. I sink down on my bunk, listening to the footsteps recede.

I can’t describe the range of emotions. Fear. Anger. Disbelief. Relief, then exultation, then anger again. At Dion. I will not repeat exactly what my first words to him were—in effect, Dion, you crazed so-and-so….that’s my life you messing with. You understand that your crazy self damn near got us killed?

“Me,” said Dion. “Me crazy? Negro, we alive, aint’t we? Did he pull the trigger? Boy, you should be kissing my feet for saving yo’ shiftless life. Best you never forget this, Negro. When in doubt, jes’ follow me. Always follow the kid.”

For some reason, I found myself laughing. “You de man, bro, I’ma follow you. I’ma follow you.”

Crazy-assed Dion Diamond.

–Kwame Ture (Stokely Carmichael) on Nashville, Tennessee arrest 1961.

Excerpt from Stokely Carmichael, John Edgar Wideman & Ekwueme Michael Thelwell, “Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture),” Scribner, November, 2003.


See more photos of Dion Diamond and the Glen Echo protests


The 1969 Nixon Inauguration: Horse Manure, Rocks & a Pig

9 Jan

“Wife” of presidential candidate Pigasus after eluding police.  John Bowden, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

By Craig Simpson

It was 1969 and thousands were streaming into the nation’s capital for a Presidential Inauguration…but this time they weren’t planning on throwing confetti.

It was the height of the Vietnam War and many were coming to the first organized protest at an Inaugural ceremony in the country since a small group of unemployed workers staged a counter-parade at Franklin Pierce’s in 1853.

Instead of flowers, horse manure would be tossed at Vice President Agnew’s guests dressed in their finest gowns and tuxedos.  Rocks, tomatoes and smoke bombs would be hurled at newly sworn-in President Richard M. Nixon as his motorcade drove along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Antiwar demonstrators planned to symbolically “In-HOG-urate” a pig as president and hold their own counter-inaugural ball on the National Mall.

The Anti-Vietnam War Movement

The domestic anti-Vietnam war movement was foundering in the fall of 1968. That was a stunning turnaround, as victory had appeared to be within the grasp of war opponents only months before.

Two years of mass demonstrations against the war had peaked in October 1967, when more than 100,000 people had streamed into the Washington, DC area for a march on the Pentagon. Local protests were common on campuses and in towns across the country.

Then in January, 1968, nearly every city in the Republic of (South) Vietnam was hit by an uprising of forces of the National Liberation Front aided by military forces of the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam. A vocal minority was no longer the sole group questioning the war.

Walter Cronkite, the preeminent television news anchor of the time, said, “To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past…To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory conclusion.”

An antiwar candidate, Senator Eugene McCarthy (D-MN), entered the race for president and nearly beat the incumbent Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary of March 12, 1968 with the help of hundreds of college students opposed to the war. Senator Robert F. Kennedy, whom many regarded as an even stronger candidate, entered the race shortly afterwards.

On March 31, Johnson conceded, “I shall not seek, nor will I accept” the nomination for president.

1968 Election Setback

Kennedy was assassinated on the night of his California primary victory in June, 1968, and Vice President Hubert Humphrey went on to win the Democratic nomination after a Chicago convention that featured brutal suppression of antiwar demonstrations by Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley. The Republican Party nominated Richard M. Nixon.

Johnson, Agnew & Humphrey Laugh During Inauguration: 1969

Johnson, Agnew & Humphrey share a laugh during Inaugural ceremonies. Photo: William C. Beall, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

In a matter of months, the fortunes of the antiwar movement had been reversed. The positions of Nixon and Humphrey on the war were virtually identical. The movement believed it had forced Johnson to resign only to get two candidates in favor of further continuation of the war.

On the left, Marxist groups were gaining sway, advocating revolution and the abandonment of electoral efforts. Other antiwar activists were simply discouraged.

Crisis for Antiwar Leaders

The steering committee of the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE), a broad-based coalition that had sponsored the earlier demonstration at the Pentagon and many of the protests at the Chicago Democratic Convention, met on September 14, 1968 in Washington, DC to consider the next steps.

The group made a decision to escalate tactics by calling a nationwide strike on Election Day and to “descend on Washington with the same determination that brought us to Chicago … on the Inauguration, January 20, 1969, if the Government seems set to launch another four years of war, political repression, poverty, and racism.”

Tom Hayden and Rennie Davis, both of whom were among the MOBE leaders, co-wrote for Liberation News Service, “…we believe the movement must organize an election offensive which demonstrates our refusal to accept the election choices offered and repudiates and discredits the system which imposes such choices on us.”

The attempt at a strike during the presidential election failed, with no campuses shut down and only a few relatively small demonstrations staged in major cities. In Washington, DC, over 1,000 rallied near the Lincoln Memorial and marched without a permit to Lafayette Park—attempting to implement a more confrontational approach. However, the small turnouts and limited effectiveness of these actions across the country led to more disillusionment.

MOBE Switches Up Again

After this failure, the MOBE regrouped and began to backtrack on using the politics of confrontation.

The MOBE leadership wooed other organizations that had not previously participated in MOBE activities. These groups had viewed the coalition as too radical.

As plans for the inaugural demonstration moved forward, David Dellinger, chairman of MOBE, repeatedly emphasized in public statements that the demonstration would be a “political, not a physical confrontation.”

In response, SANE (Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy), The University Christian Movement and the Universities Committee on the Problems of War and Peace agreed to participate in the counter-inaugural activities along with other pacifist groups.

The Washington Free Press, the local alternative newspaper, wrote after the event that the MOBE  “was trying to woo the right of the left, the liberal and support groups…The MOBE bet that the street people would come anyhow, if unenthusiastically.”

A significant portion of the antiwar movement was opposed to MOBE’s counter-inaugural at this point, including the national leadership of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that voted in December against participating in the protest.   A number of other left wing groups decided to sit it out as well.

But separately, other individuals and groups were making plans to come to Washington and pursue the politics of confrontation, including guerrilla theater advocates Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, who reportedly said, “We will bring our revolutionary theater to Washington to inaugurate Pigasus, our pig, the only honest candidate…”

Preparations for Demonstration

Seeking to avoid physical confrontation, MOBE representatives entered into complicated negotiations with the government over permits.

Dave Dellinger 1969

Dave Dellinger & Rennie Davis reach permit agreements with Harry Van Cleve of the government. Photo: uncredited, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post

As the negotiations approached the start of Inaugural activities, a breakthrough was reached on January 15. The government agreed to permit the counter-demonstrators to march from the national Mall near the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue to the Supreme Court on the day before Nixon’s parade.

Congressional leaders later vetoed any use of Capitol Hill, so the ending point was changed to the national Mall near the Health, Education & Welfare (HEW) building at 3rd & Independence SW.

Erecting the Counter-Inaugural Tent: 1969

Erecting the counter-inaugural tent. Photo: uncredited, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

There were no meeting facilities available to the protestors in the city, so the MOBE demanded permission to erect a tent on the Mall to accommodate the counter-inaugural activities. Ultimately a compromise was reached on January 16, and a grassy triangular area south of the Washington Monument and west of 15th Street NW was agreed upon.

MOBE officials announced plans to protest during the Inaugural parade itself at four different locations. Dellinger reiterated, “We have no plans for civil disobedience or disorder or disruption.”

But Dellinger didn’t have the final word on the escalation of tactics as groups and individuals began making their own plans.

The Free Press urged that “All movement action should take place on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue, because on the south side there is no place to run if the ‘getting’ gets good.” They added, “On the corner of 14th & Penn. is the Nixon Headquarters. DO IT, DO IT!!…”

They further advised, “Bring a lot of eggs, tomatoes, and rotten fruit,” and, “After the parade, if you’re still up to it, you might like to see one or two other ‘points of interest’ around Washington. Check the map for locations of the Selective Service Board, FBI building, and others…”

Ms. Pigasus Arrives

On January 16, a small guerrilla theater group arrived at the outdoor Sylvan Theater on the Monument grounds, where one participant identified as Super Joel Yippie presented a live pig as “Mrs. Pigasus,” the wife of Pigasus who had been nominated for president during the Chicago convention protests.

Reception for Ms Pigasus: Counter-Inaugural 1969

Reception for Ms. Pigasus. Photo: John Bowden, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

To the delight of news reporters, the pig escaped and was chased by three police officers on horseback, two in cars and one on foot. Super Joel himself eventually caught the pig and brought her back to the stage.  Members of the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell (WITCH), led a rendition of “You’re a Grand Old Flag” that went: “You’re a grand old pig, you’re a high-flying pig…you’re an emblem of the land we love.”

The protestors vowed to “In-HOG-Urate” Pigasus with Ms. Pigasus at his side at the counter-inaugural protests scheduled in a couple of days.

In an event seemingly related to the protests, a Molotov cocktail was tossed through a window of the national Selective Service headquarters at 1724 F Street NW just after midnight on January 18. Police reported that the firebombing caused “extensive damage” to the records of the headquarters of the nation’s draft board, according to the Washington Post.

Day 1: Demonstrators Stream Into Town

The first official counter-inaugural events took place on January 18th. At the Hawthorne School, located at 501 I Street SW, hundreds watched a Black Panther film, discussed labor organizing, traded tips on draft counseling, and learned the fine points of guerrilla theater at the many workshops offered.

One young woman, when asked by a Washington Post reporter why she came, replied with a mischievous smile, “to give Nixon a rousing welcome.”

Women Hit 'Distinguished Ladies': Counter-Inaugural 1969

“Distinguished Ladies” protest. Photo: unidentified, courtesy of Liberation News Service.

Later, approximately 150 women gathered at the National Gallery of Art in a demonstration sponsored by the Women’s Liberation Movement and attempted to break through police lines to enter a reception for “Distinguished Ladies” being held there. During the first attempt at confrontation politics during the weekend, the police lines held and no arrests were made.

Meanwhile, inside the reception three women who had obtained tickets handed out leaflets and gave an impromptu women’s liberation speech to a crowd that included Tricia Nixon, the president-elect’s daughter, and Randy Agnew, the vice president-elect’s daughter.

Another three hundred shouted at attendees of a “Young Americans Inaugural Salute” scheduled by the Young Republicans at the Washington Hilton hotel. A guerrilla theater group wearing white rubber Nixon masks imitated the Gestapo and tore apart and burned a rubber doll while chanting “Kill for Peace.” One man who pulled down some red, white and blue bunting at the hotel was arrested for “mutilation and desecration” of a flag and was later sentenced to 30 days in jail or a $100 fine.

Day 2: Women Reach the Breaking Point

The following day, demonstrators began gathering at the counter-inaugural tent on a cold and rainy day.  Inside the tent, the ground turned to mud.

A parade of male speakers came to the stage, broken up by an occasional folksinger like Phil Ochs, while the crowd became restless. James Johnson, one of the Fort Hood 3–a GI who had refused orders to Vietnam–was heckled. Moderator Dave Dellinger, a long-time antiwar leader, stepped to the microphone and rebuked the hecklers.

The MOBE leadership had invited Marilyn Salzman Webb as one of the official speakers who would address women’s liberation.  Webb, a veteran civil rights and antiwar activist who was a Washington, DC women’s leader, was reluctant to openly criticize the male dominated antiwar leadership.

Shulamith Firestone

Shulamith Firestone circa 1970. Photo: Michael Hardy.

Another branch within the nascent women’s movement, led by Shulamith Firestone of New York, demanded and won the right to speak to the crowd. Firestone planned to direct some of her remarks to the subjugation of women by those in the New Left.

“Perhaps the worst memory of that day was when a woman (I don’t remember who now) spoke about Women’s Liberation and was roundly booed.”

As Webb began her speech, hecklers began shouting, “take it off” and “take her off the stage and f*** her,” according to Alice Echols’ account. Webb recalled later, “It was like a riot breaking out.” When Firestone tried to speak it was worse.

Webb recalled that there were some men in the audience who were opposing the hecklers. For the women, a problem bigger than the crowd was Dellinger’s response. Rather than trying to calm the crowd as he did with the Fort Hood speaker, Dellinger told Webb to “shut Shulie up,” according to the account by Echols.

Firestone wrote a letter to the Guardian after the counter-inaugural rally that addressed the left, “There are millions of women out there desperate enough to rise…and we have more important things to do than to try to get you to come around. She added, “We’re starting our own movement.”

Webb was ostracized from the Washington, DC SDS community after her relatively mild speech.  She went on to start the feminist journal Off Our Backs with others. Webb later reflected that the events forced women to forge their own politics, but deprived them of a base, “The left could have been a base and was a base, because that’s where we all came from…” according to Echols account.

The incident highlighted the weaknesses of MOBE officials that vacillated on many issues and often exercised little or no leadership.

The Counter-Inaugural March

Not long after the women left the stage, a group of New York SDS members approached the podium and asked to speak, but were refused. Angered, they walked out and began an impromptu march.

Inside the Counter-Inaugural Tent: 1969

Rally prior to the march inside the tent. Photo: uncredited, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

“Inside the tent, the speakers were shooting their mouths off saying nothing that we hadn’t heard a thousand times before and everyone wanted to get out of there. They just wanted to go and they started going,” one participant said, according to a government report on the activities.

Hundreds joined this group and started marching along the parade route. Some later turned back and joined the main body. Others continued and finished the unscheduled march before returning to the Washington Monument, where they joined hands and danced around the Monument to “exorcise the country’s need for a perpetual hard on.”

The main march, drawing upwards of 15,000, proceeded not long after the rump group on Pennsylvania Ave. toward the Capitol. There were no incidents until protestors encountered a group of right-wing counter-demonstrators.

“The parade passed by a small group of Nazi [American Nazi Party] counter-demonstrators around 10th & Pennsylvania. They were quickly confronted by demonstrators, some of whom threw rocks and fought with the Nazis.”

The Nazis were quickly driven off.

The counter-inaugural parade was mostly festive with street theater and marching kazoo bands.  The signs and banners reflected a variety of issues with an end to the Vietnam War paramount.

Nixon as a War Criminal: Counter Inaugural 1969

Nixon as a war criminal during counter-inaugural march. Photo: uncredited, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

Abolish the Draft,” “Free Political Prisoners,” “End the War,” “Bring the Boys Home, “Don’t Eat Grapes,” “Defeat Imperialism Everywhere,” and “Victory to the Vietcong” were among the messages carried by the marchers.

A brief confrontation occurred toward the end of the march near 3rd Street, Independence Avenue and Maryland Avenue. Police attacked some demonstrators who they believed were trying to march on the Capitol.

Demonstrators responded by throwing sticks and bottles at the police before MOBE marshals formed a line between the two groups, siding with the police against the protestors in the view of many of the crowd. Police arrested fifteen during this confrontation.

Another brief scuffle occurred at the HEW building at the end of the march when some demonstrators tried to pull down an American flag in front of the building.

MOBE marshals circled the flagpole and prevented this from occurring, but several fistfights between demonstrators broke out over the issue, further underscoring differences among the demonstrators. MOBE leaders eventually convinced authorities to lower the flag since it was around 5 p.m. and getting dark anyway.

Horse Manure Thrown at Agnew’s Guests

Several thousand marchers began walking back along the Mall to the tent for the counter-inaugural ball.

“As we were trekking across the Mall back toward the tent, someone was shouting that a reception for Vice-President-elect Spiro Agnew was being held at the History and Technology Museum at 14th Street on the Mall.”

Protestors began gathering near the Mall entrance of the museum (now Museum of American History) on Madison Drive in another impromptu demonstration.

Nearly 5,000 demonstrators converged in close proximity to where guests would arrive on Washington Drive and walk down a block-long red carpet on 13th Street to the entrance of the museum. (Both streets have been converted to walking paths today, but were open to traffic at that time.)

Police on Horseback Move Anti-Agnew Protestors: 1969

Police using horses clear Agnew demonstrators. Photo: US Park Police.

Park police, using horses for the first time in a Washington demonstration, drove the protestors back from the immediate area of the museum entrance onto grassy areas on either side of 13th Street. The use of horses would prove to have mixed results.

A few firecrackers were hurled at the horses who in turn reared up and nearly threw the officers to the ground. As time went on, horses began dropping manure.

Dressed in mink and formal clothes, Agnew’s guests began arriving and contrasted sharply with the demonstrators. The guests were forced to walk a gauntlet, greeted with shouts of “fascist pig” and “imperialists.” And that was not all they were greeted with.

“…demonstrators picked up the fresh, steaming horse manure and began pelting the guests as they walked down a long red carpet that stretched from the street on up the steps of the Museum on the Mall side.”

There were only a few foot police present and there had been no further attempt to move protestors.

As the seventh couple arrived, the man smiled, probably attempting to look unconcerned at the mayhem around him. However, when a firecracker exploded near his wife’s arm, police began moving the crowd back and also making several arrests.

As objects continued to be thrown, police attempted again to move protestors back. This time they lost control and began clubbing people. The police horses trampled several protestors.

The demonstrators began fighting back with rocks and sticks and ultimately their fists.

“I witnessed an individual officer who charged wildly into the crowd chasing someone I suppose he thought was a manure thrower. He suddenly stopped and realized he was surrounded by demonstrators with no other officers around.”

Quickly the demonstrators pounced, removing his helmet, gun, badge, and nightstick and pummeling him with their fists. It seemed like an eternity before his fellow officers realized his plight and came to his rescue.”

Park Police Use Horses to Move Agnew Protestors: 1969

Horses move protestors back at Agnew reception. Photo: US Park Police.

They succeeded in clearing the area after a few minutes and afterwards Agnew’s guests could arrive with little danger of being struck by objects thrown by the crowd. The fighting was largely over and Agnew arrived at some point, skirting the protestors by entering a side door.

However, one protestor who had taken refuge in a tree during the altercation with police was repeatedly clubbed with a three-foot riot baton by a man in a police slicker and a riot helmet. The incident took place in full view of the crowd. The “policeman” was later identified as a part-time police surgeon who was not authorized to wear a police uniform.

Shortly after this incident, a deputy chief of police went alone into the crowd to investigate some small fires. A demonstrator struck him in the back of the head with an improvised wooden club. Two other officers came to his aid and helped him back to police lines.

With nightfall, the falling temperature took its toll on the demonstrators and they began to filter away. When Agnew left the reception around 6:45 pm from another door, the rest of the crowd moved to the tent for the counter-inaugural ball.

Counter-Inaugural Ball

As a light show beamed across the stage, rock bands, including Ed Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg of the Fugs, and folk singer Phil Ochs entertained the crowd. Marijuana was smoked openly in the presence of the numerous undercover police officers.

Counter-Inaugural Ball: 1969

Counter-inaugural ball January 19. Photo: Geoff, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

Later in the evening a fierce debate at the tent broke out. At a meeting earlier in the evening 200 members of New York based organizations including the state SDS, Co-Aim (a group allied with Youth Against War & Fascism) and the Progressive Labor Party met and decided on a “physical confrontation with police on the following day during the Inaugural Parade.”

Co-Aim seized the headquarters of the MOBE on Vermont Avenue and another group went to the tent and took the microphone about 11 p.m. to announce a march from Franklin Park the next day at noon, urging those with “weak stomachs” to stay away.

After a long discussion between MOBE officials and the group’s representatives, a compromise was reached. MOBE would seek a permit for the group while the militant demonstrators agreed that their march, if permitted, would not be disruptive.

The permit for the ball allowed demonstrators to stay all night at the counter-inaugural, but few remained after midnight in the cold, muddy tent. The In-HOG-uration of Pigasus never actually took place and Ms. Pigasus never made another appearance either.

Day 3: Protestors Line Parade Route

The next day several hundred people gathered in Franklin Park and were joined by many others in route during a march from the park to Pennsylvania Ave.  There were several skirmishes with police and counter-demonstrators along the way that resulted in several arrests.

Nixon's # 1 War Criminal: Counter-Inaugural 1969

March from Franklin Park to Pennsylvania Avenue. Photo: uncredited, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

The group gathered at the widest point on the Inaugural Parade route between 14th and 15th Streets NW, on the north side of the avenue in front of the National Theater.  Freedom Plaza had not been constructed at that time and Pennsylvania Avenue ran closer to the theater than it does today.  Another group of about 1,000 protestors gathered on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue closer to 15th Street, where the motorcade would make a turn.

The MOBE bought 200 tickets to the official bleacher seats on Pennsylvania Avenue and on 15th Street. Demonstrators filled those with varying signs and banners as well as flags of the insurgent Vietnamese National Liberation Front.  Still another group of several hundred gathered at 12th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW in front of the American Security Building. Individual protestors were scattered along the parade route.

“As I joined the crowd that morning, I noted that anything that could possibly be thrown had been removed from the area. In addition, the area was surrounded by men in trench coats (and also dispersed in the crowd) that were obviously undercover police of one variety or other.”

The area in front of the National Theater was the scene of intense skirmishing between police and protestors prior to the motorcade.

Police were outraged that the demonstrators were burning small American flags given out by the Boy Scouts, and would periodically reach across the steel cable barrier to grab and arrest a protestor.  One man who wrapped a small flag around his fingers and raised them in a “V” sign was later convicted for flag desecration and sentenced to 60 days in jail.

Protestors threw objects at the police, who occasionally responded by charging into the crowd.

One officer had his cap taken when he tried to tackle a demonstrator burning a flag, and a police captain was clubbed over the head when he entered the crowd alone to put out a small pile of burning flags.

Johnson, Nixon, Graham & Agnew Pray During Inaugural Ceremony: 1969

Johnson, Nixon, Rev. Billy Graham & Agnew pray at Inauguration. Photo: William C. Beall, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

The Nixon motorcade began to make its way from the Capitol, where he had been sworn in, to the White House reviewing stand, and authorities acted to ensure there would be no parade disruption.

“Approximately fifteen minutes before the parade reached the intersection which the crowd occupied, units of the C.D.U. [Civil Defense Unit – the riot squad] moved into position behind the demonstrators. Units of the Regular Army 82nd Airborne from Fort Bragg, in dress uniform, formed a line behind the police and linked arms. They carried no rifles. Two companies, totaling approximately 200 National Guardsmen, were ordered to 13th and Pennsylvania from their position behind the District Building. Wearing battle gear and carrying rifles, they lined up shoulder-to-shoulder next to the Army troops. Tension among the demonstrators mounted,” according to a government report made after the demonstration.

A police captain tore down an antiwar banner and when questioned by a MOBE attorney, he shoved his baton into the attorney’s stomach, pushing him across the cable into the demonstrators.  One city official observing the captain said, “He looked like a mad dog. He was salivating at his mouth and sweating all over.”

Rocks Thrown at President’s Limousine

Nixon was riding in a black bulletproof limousine with the top affixed and had the windows rolled down for most of the parade. As he passed the demonstrators at 12th Street, he waved to the crowd opposite the demonstrators from an open window while the windows facing the protestors were closed. However, all the windows on the car were closed as it moved toward the main body of demonstrators.

Secret Service Ducks Rocks Thrown at Nixon: Counter-Inaugural 1969

Secret Service duck rocks while one jumps on back of Nixon limousine. Photo: uncredited, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

As the Presidential car approached 14th Street, a smoke bomb was tossed seconds before the car passed. A thrown missile felled a National Guardsman. Two cans with smoke coming out were thrown at the President’s car. One landed in front of the car while the other rolled underneath.

“The motorcade sped up as it neared the intersection, and I was surprised when it was still greeted by a barrage of rocks. The Secret Service must be given credit. I didn’t see a single rock strike the car as they deftly caught them or batted them away.”

A rock did hit the side of the car and a Secret Service agent was struck near the rear of the car.  Another batted down a bottle. The official count was twelve hard objects and many softer ones such as tomatoes and tin foil.

Final Confrontation

After the Presidential car passed, the demonstrators who were gathered in front of the National Theater began moving toward the area of the White House reviewing stand by heading north on 14th Street and then west on H Street, while most other protestors at the parade dispersed.

Fighting between police and demonstrators broke out on H Street near Lafayette Park, with police clubbing demonstrators.  The fracas took place within shouting distance of the President.

As the clash continued, about 200 African American young people, drawn to the area by the commotion, joined the predominantly white protestors in the battle.

Police Grapple with Demonstrators: Counter-Inaugural 1969

CDU police grapple with demonstrators after Inaugural Parade. Photo: Geoff, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

The deputy chief of police in charge of the Civil Defense Unit (CDU–the riot squad) was in his car and was being pelted by stones and bottles. He radioed, “Mayday. These hippies should be arrested without hesitation.”

A running battle soon developed with demonstrators throwing rocks and bottles and police arresting anyone who looked like a protestor.

Police soon lost control. They beat a young woman medic who was administering first aid. A city official restrained another officer from chasing an 11-year old boy. The official then took the child to a nearby church.

Still another officer repeatedly clubbed an 18-year old woman with his nightstick.  The police surgeon who beat a demonstrator coming out of a tree the night before was back again clubbing anyone who came near him.

Demonstrators fought back with rocks, bottles and fists in running battles that frustrated police, including a contingent on scooters. Helicopters circled looking for groups of demonstrators.

As these skirmishes drew to a close, the deputy chief in charge of the CDU was told 90 arrests were made. “Not near enough, not near enough,” he replied. The counter-inaugural protests were over after three days of confrontation.

Aftermath

Following the brutal suppression of antiwar demonstrations in Chicago the previous summer, the failure of a national strike on Election Day in November, and the disillusionment with the election of a president vowing to continue the Vietnam War, the protest served notice that opposition to the war would not die.

The Washington Free Press wrote, “…it’s hard to see how things could’ve gone much better than they did at the Counter-Inauguration. Hardly anyone got hurt, we didn’t have the usual heavy financial drain of bail, fines and court costs, and we did just about what we intended.”

Antiwar Protestors Giving Kazoo to Nixon: Counter-Inaugural 1969

Giving Nixon the kazoo during counter-inaugural. Photo: uncredited, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

In the end, the injuries to police and demonstrators were minor and while some were treated at area hospitals, no one required hospitalization. Police reported a total of 119 arrests over the three-day period of the demonstrations. Authorities were also pleased because their worst fear of protestors breaking through barriers and overturning the President’s car was not realized.

Despite the weaknesses of a demonstration that was poorly organized and led and of a movement that would splinter into a hundred different tendencies, the counter-inaugural activities served to revitalize the antiwar movement and sharpen the debate over moving from passive resistance to active opposition.

Sally Lasselle of Liberation News Service wrote, “The movement did not demonstrate their grievances to him [Nixon] to ask for his help. It is up to the people to change the country. This means organizing and fighting…”

Allen Young, another correspondent of Liberation News Service wrote, “Essentially, the Washington actions sharpened the contradictions between the pacifist moral witness approach to politics and the combative anti-imperialist socialist tendency.”

Antiwar Protestors Salute Nixon: Counter-Inaugural 1969

Peace sign & middle finger as Nixon’s limo passes demonstrators reflect debate at 1969 counter-inaugural. Photo: uncredited, courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection © Washington Post.

The debate among demonstrators wasn’t as simple as violence versus non-violence. It was more about whether the antiwar movement would adopt confrontation tactics on a widespread scale.

The sometimes-pointed discussion played out across the three days between those attending. According to an account by Allen Young of a communal dinner at St. Stephens Church on January 18, several speakers challenged the MOBE slogans saying, “’Peace Now’ doesn’t say anything. What we’re about is liberation.” A member of a draft resistance group responded, “This meeting sounds like a hate rally.” Mike Spiegel, a former SDS national secretary responded, “To talk about hate obscures the point. What we are is angry.”

The Washington Free Press wrote after the events, “…there are tens of millions of young people who whether the Man’s tactics are hard or soft are not taken in and are out to knock him off his perch. And whether they dug the action in person, by word of mouth or through the media, they dug it.”

The debate was largely won by those who sought an escalation of tactics, as millions joined the moratorium, a national strike against the war, on October 15, 1969, followed by a huge national demonstration in Washington, DC on November 15 of that year. In 1970, students at more than 500 campuses across the country went on strike against the war for several weeks. In 1971, thousands more streamed into Washington in an attempt to shut down the government.

Secret Service Guard Nixon Limo Against Rocks: Inauguration 1973

Nixon’s limo is again pelted with rocks at 1973 Inauguration. Photo: Liberation News Service.

Nixon began withdrawing combat troops in response to the continued shift of the US public opinion from pro-war to antiwar and the ongoing fighting by the Vietnamese. He soon entered into negotiations with his Vietnamese adversaries.

However, he increased aerial bombing, and over the Christmas holidays in 1972 he staged the largest US bombing since World War II against infrastructure in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.

This was met by a demonstration involving nearly 100,000 people at his second Inauguration in January, 1973. Once again his limousine was pelted with rocks during his Inaugural Parade.

The US combat role in the war ended with the Paris Peace agreements shortly afterwards.


Author’s Notes:

The quotes that are offset in this article are from my own recollections entitled, “My Most Memorable Antiwar Demonstration” written for a reunion of University of Maryland activists in 2005.

Most other information for this article was compiled from The Washington Post, The Washington Star, The Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Free Press, Echols’ “Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967-1975, Liberation News Service and a staff report by Joseph Sahid, et. al. for the National Commission on the Causes & Prevention of Violence.

At the time of this demonstration, I was a 17-year old high school senior and attended nearly all of the activities described. My own recollections of specific events largely parallel the National Commission on Causes and Prevention of Violence staff report with several minor differences. Liberation News Service also provides three accounts that do not differ substantially.

There were no media reports of the altercation with the American Nazi Party January 19, but two of my high school classmates were directly involved and I and other friends witnessed the end of the encounter.

There were no press reports that horse manure was thrown at arriving guests at the Agnew reception January 19. However, others who were present at the event have confirmed my recollection. The staff report relied on news media reports of “mud” being thrown.

My recollection of a police officer’s gun being taken during the confrontation at the Agnew reception on January 19 is probably wrong. I may have mistaken some other object as the officer’s gun since there were no reports of a missing service weapon.

The staff report implies that objects hurled at the President’s limousine only came from the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue near the National Theater on January 20, but objects were tossed from both sides of the street.

My recollection that no objects hit the President’s car is contradicted by the staff report that indicates that one rock struck the vehicle.

I recalled the limousine speeding up as it approached the main body of demonstrators at 14th Street and this is confirmed in a Liberation News Service account, while the staff report has the vehicle doing a steady 3-4 mph.


Craig Simpson is a former Secretary-Treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and has a BA in labor studies from the National Labor College. He can be contacted by email at washington_area_spark@yahoo.com.


Want to see and read more?

  • See more photos related to the 1969 counter inaugural activities here:  and of the 1973 protests at the inauguration here.
  •  See many additional photos and read the staff report of the National Commission on the Causes & Prevention of Violence on the 1969 counter-inaugural activities here:
  •  For a few additional photos and several lengthy write-ups, see Liberation News Service January 23, 1969 packet at the LNS archives:

Coming soon: A link to a footnoted version of this article.

MD Marriage Equality: Over 50 Years in the Making

14 Nov

Fifty years ago sodomy laws made lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender relationships illegal—defined by authorities at that time as sexual perversion.  LGBT individuals were routinely arrested, fired from employment from both the federal government and private employers and condemned as mentally ill by psychiatrists.

A few images from the early battles in the Washington, DC area…

White House Picket for Gay Rights: 1965

White House Picket for Gay Rights: 1965

The Mattachine Society, the first homosexual rights group in the modern era in the Washington, DC area, was formed by Franklin Kameny and Jack Nichols in August 1961. On April 17, 1965, the Mattachine Society held the first organized public demonstration for gay and lesbian rights in at the White House.

Pictured above is Ernestine Eckstein at the third White House picket sponsored by the Mattachine Society, October 23, 1965.

For some other great images of the early Mattachine Society picket lines at the US Civil Service Commission, the White House and the Pentagon and other actions, please see the Barbara Gittings & Kay Tobin Lahusen gay history papers and photographs on the New York Public Library Digital Gallery.

Image from Barbara Gittings and Kay Tobin Lahusen gay history papers and photographs.  Photo by Kay Tobin Lahusen.  Courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collection. Permanent link at NYPL: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?1605764

DC Gay Liberation Front 1970

Washington, DC Gay Liberation Front: 1970

This photo is undated and at an unidentified location. It is probably at an anti-Vietnam war demonstration in Washington DC in December 1970 or January 1971, judging by the clothing worn and the slogan “set the date” which was not in widespread use until late 1970.

The image was used to illustrate a Washington Star in-depth story entitled, “The New Radicals,” published January 24, 1971 about the DC Gay Liberation Front (GLF).

The article summarized the Nov. 28, 1970 demonstration at the Zephyr Bar on upper Wisconsin Avenue after four GLF members were refused service.  Several dozen GLF members and supporters came to the restaurant and staged an impromptu demonstration chanting slogans inside the restaurant.  Some minor property damage occurred and twelve GLF demonstrators were arrested, although charges were later dropped.

The Star feature story also outlined the early Nov. 1970 GLF disruption of a conference on the “psychiatric treatment of homosexuals” at Catholic University and the role GLF played in the Black Panther’s Party sponsored Revolutionary People’s Constitutional Convention also in Nov. 1970.

See the history of the DC GLF and GLF photos on the Rainbow History site.

Explore the many faceted history, documents and photographs of the LBGT movement in Washington at Rainbow History.

Photo by Joseph Silverman published January 24, 1971. Courtesy of the DC Public Library Washington Star Collection©Washington Post.

Gay Alliance Protests US Park Police: 1972

Gay Alliance Protests US Park Police: 1972

On January 5, 1972, members of the Gay Activist Alliance staged a demonstration against US Park Police near the Iwo Jima memorial in Arlington Virginia.

Police had arrested over 60 people in a wooded area of the park in the preceding five months for “obscene and indecent” acts.  The Washington Blade reported many of those detained complained they had been entrapped by the eight undercover officers assigned to conduct arrests.

A group of about 20 activists rallied at North Meade St. in Arlington, VA and marched to the memorial chanting and alluding to the entrapment by carrying signs like, “Don’t Expose Yourself, You May be Impersonating an Officer.”

Park police arrested six protesters for “demonstrating without a license.”

In that time period sodomy laws were used to jail anyone deemed guilty of “sexual perversion.” Sexual perversion was defined by police and courts to include anyone gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

This demonstration marked one the earliest open revolts against the use of police to break up activities of consensual adults in the DC area.

See the Gay Activist Alliance press release on entrapment at Iwo Jima. Explore the many faceted history, documents and photographs of the LBGT movement in Washington at the Rainbow History site here.

Photo by John Bowden. Courtesy of the DC Public Library, Washington Star Collection©Washington Post.

Washington Free Press Battles Suppression 1969-70

7 Nov
Judge James H. Pugh Orders Subversion Probe: 1969

Judge Pugh’s grand jury probe of Free Press “subversion” sets off battle. Photo courtesy of DC Public Library, Washington Star Collection©Washington Post.

By Craig Simpson

The Washington Free Press, an alternative newspaper of the late 1960s, published for only three years.  Its legacy was an epic clash with local authorities that ended in a blaze of glory as the tabloid’s battle against suppression gutted Maryland’s McCarthy-era anti-subversive law and helped roll back the definitions of obscenity.

Its greatest victories and defeats came after Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James H. Pugh ordered a grand jury investigation into the newspaper in March 1969 for advocating, “the destruction of the state and destruction between the schools of this county and the duly constituted law enforcement agencies thereof.”

Background

The Washington Free Press started as an intercollegiate paper but began publishing as an alternative newspaper on a two-week basis in March 1967. The issues contained New Left, Old Left, pacifist and anarchist opinions and information mixed with mysticism, advocacy of psychedelic drugs, cultural writings, artwork and poetry.

Alternative newspapers of various stripes were published in practically every sizable city and town in the country during a time when black militancy, the  “counter-culture” and anti-Vietnam war protests and were sweeping the nation.

The Free Press was sold at head shops and other sympathetic outlets, but most of the 20,000 copies each issue were sold on street corners by individuals who paid ten cents per copy to the Free Press and sold the paper for 20 cents.  Often the newspapers were advanced to sellers who were expected to repay out of their proceeds.  Both display and personal advertisements also helped finance the paper. Staff turnover was constant, the newspaper paid only a small stipend per week and most staff lived communally.

The paper began to directly challenge authorities in 1968 when a majority of the staff embraced the Youth International Party politics of cultural and political confrontation.

Newspaper More Provocative

There was always police harassment of street corner sellers and two people hawking the Free Press were arrested for selling obscene material in Rehoboth, DE in 1967, but authorities largely ignored the newspaper.

However, by 1969 the Free Press published the names, addresses and photos of alleged undercover agents, regularly used four letter words and called police pigs. They published articles on how to grow marijuana and wrote about revolution. In the process, they developed a large following among high school students.

Authorities in Montgomery County, MD began a counter-attack in February 1969 when three students were suspended at Gaithersburg High School for distributing the paper.

Police followed up by arresting David Kramer for selling the paper outside of Northwood High School a week later.  They charged Kramer with not having a permit for sales within 500 feet of a school.   However, charges were quickly dismissed against Kramer, the son of Montgomery County council member Rose Kramer, when a judge ruled that the permit requirement was aimed at food trucks and similar businesses.

Judge Pugh Orders Grand Jury Investigation

Undaunted by this legal setback, the county pressed on.  On March 3, Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge James H. Pugh, citing the 1949 Maryland “Ober Law,” told a grand jury it was a felony to commit “any act intended to overthrow, destroy or alter, or to assist in the overthrow, destruction or alteration of” a political subdivision of the state “by revolution, force or violence.”

He told the grand jury that if they found the Free Press had violated this law, they should, “indict the staff, publishers and printers of the paper,” according to the Washington Post.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) quickly denounced the Free Press investigation.

Pugh was already a well-known opponent of social justice advocates.  In 1960, Pugh imposed fines on five people convicted of trespassing during the picketing demanding integration of Glen Echo Amusement Park telling them, “Imagine, college students from New York and college students from other places trying to force your ideas on the way other people run their businesses.”

He presided over the 1961 rape trial of James & John Giles, after impanelling an all-white jury.  The Giles brothers were accused of raping a white woman.  After they were convicted, Pugh sentenced the brothers to death. The case went to the US Supreme Court, which ordered a new trial.  After a six-year fight by their defense committee and lawyers, prosecutors dropped charges against the Giles brothers in 1967.

Pugh also sentenced a Chevy Chase bookstore owner to six months in jail in 1961 for selling a copy of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, telling Samuel Yudkin he had “flagrantly violated the laws of Maryland.”

When a District man came before him in 1965 for stealing $461 worth of lead bars, Pugh served notice that “the overflow of the criminal element from Washington” can expect harsh sentences.

“This court wants you to know that when criminals such as you come out here to Montgomery County, MD, you are going to be dealt with severely,” he told Eddie Terrell as he sentenced him to a 10-year prison term.

Cartoon Ruled Obscene, 6 month Jail Sentence: 1969

Free Press response to Pugh’s subversion inquiry. From page 7, March 15-31, 1969 issue.

The Free Press Raises the Ante

Free Press responded to the grand jury investigation in its March 16-30 edition by publishing a seven page attack on the judicial system that began with a relatively small caricature of Pugh masturbating while sitting behind a dais where instruments of torture hung.  The drawing was entitled “He’ Comm D’Judje” (sic).

One of the articles specifically criticized Pugh and printed his unlisted phone number and Chevy Chase address advising readers to call or visit him.

The County responded March 21 by having police seize 100 copies of the paper at an Empire Records store on Old Georgetown Road for obscenity.  Owner Jim Seward was told that the paper was “no longer approved,” according to the Washington Post.

Police Arrest Dillingham

That evening Montgomery County activist J. Brinton “Brint” Dillingham began selling the newspaper outside of the Bethesda police station after hearing of the Empire Records confiscation.  Police quickly arrested Dillingham and a 17-year old companion and charged them with possession of obscene literature.  Dillingham was released on bail and a trial date set for April 17.

The Free Press’ printer refused to run another issue and the paper scrambled to find a way to publish the paper before securing a New York print shop.  The delay and subsequent increase in cost forced the paper to publish its next issue two weeks late.

Picket Judge Pugh’s Home Over Subversion Inquiry: 1969

Demonstrators picket Judge Pugh’s home April 4, 1969 over subversion probe and obscenity arrest. Photo: Pike. Courtesy DC Public Library, Washington Star Collection©Washington Post.

April 4, more than thirty demonstrators picketed Judge Pugh’s home.  Joe Forer, a longtime attorney of left-leaning defendants who also led the successful appeal of the Giles brothers’ conviction, filed suit in federal court to overturn the sections of the “Ober law” cited by Judge Pugh.

On April 7, Dillingham was tried in a courtroom packed with more than 100 supporters, including one wearing a copy of the Pugh cartoon pinned to his shirt.

During the trial, Forer introduced evidence that Phillip Roth’s best selling novel Portnoy’s Complaint containing explicit sexuality was sold at a Walden Book Store managed by Montgomery County state’s attorney William Linthicum’s wife.  Linthicum, who was prosecuting the case, stipulated that he had no intention of prosecuting the store’s proprietor.

Forer noted that he believed the only reason this case was being tried is because it lampooned a judge.

People’s Court Judge Willard J. Nalls convicted Dillingham of passing out obscenity and sentenced him to six months in jail. Nalls told Dillingham, “I don’t think you have to be an art critic or write for a newspaper to determine whether something is obscene. I think this picture falls clearly within that language.”

Dillingham Convicted of Obscenity in Free Press Case: 1969

Sister, mother & brother of Dillingham outside Bethesda court April 7, 1969. Photographer: unknown. Courtesy of DC Public Library, Washington Star Collection©Washington Post.

Judge Nalls set a $5,000 bond for Dillingham prompting Forer to respond, “You’re kidding! I’ve seen murder cases where it wasn’t that high.  As Dillingham was being led away, Dillingham supporter Richard Crouch began rhythmic clapping. Nalls shouted, “You’re in contempt of court!” Dillingham supporter Michael Mage responded, “You’re in contempt of us.” Nails cited and fined both for contempt of court.

A Montgomery County Bar Association resolution condemned the Free Press and supported Judge Pugh saying they were “…outraged at the vilification of a member of our bench.“

Bar president Richard B. Latham, went on to say, “It is inconsistent for persons to flout some parts of our Constitution and then seize upon other parts of the very same Constitution for their protection.”  Forer responded, “They talk about flouting the Constitution.  My opinion is that the constitutional rights of those who publish and distributed the Free Press have been grossly flouted.”

Meanwhile nearly every jurisdiction in the Washington area began a concerted drive against the Free Press.

The Montgomery County Council passed a resolution to investigate Free Press distribution in the high schools.  Prince George’s state’s attorney Arthur “Bud” Marshall called for an injunction against Free Press distribution to anyone under 18.

On April 8, a Washington, DC Free Press salesman was arrested at 16th & K Streets NW after being stopped by police.  His crime was using obscenity when he told an officer, “Arrest me if you want to, I’m tired of this s__t.”  A Kensington youth was charged with possession of obscenity when police stopped him for a traffic violation and found two copies of the paper in his car on April 11.

The Paper Fires a Second Round

The Free Press responded with perhaps its biggest “stick in the eye” when in published its April 16-30, 1969 edition.  It placed a large, self-censored version of the Pugh cartoon on the front cover as a “connect the dots” illustration along with the admonition:

Free Press Response to Obscenity Conviction

Free Press ups the ante in their April 16-30, 1969 issue by placing Pugh cartoon on front cover.

Hey, gang! Connect the numbered dots and display your artwork at the institution of your choice. (Evaporated milk and a sponge will do the job.) The name of the game is “Subversion-Perversion”.

The District opened an investigation of the paper for operating without a corporation franchise license.  The District police carried out a court-ordered search of the newspaper office citing the Free Press publication of excerpts of documents obtained during a Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) takeover of the Sino-Soviet studies offices at George Washington University.  Police found nothing.

Two more Free Press peddlers were arrested in Salisbury, MD, April 26 for distribution of obscene material.  District police arrested another two at 15th & New York Ave NW for vending without a license May 12.

Dillingham Repeatedly Arrested

Dillingham’s appeal of his obscenity conviction to Circuit Court was scheduled for June 9 where a trial by jury would take place. Dillingham operated Freedom House, a youth activities center located at 4927 Cordell Ave. in Bethesda as director of Compeers, a social action group.  Police were determined to shut Freedom House and through the landlord had obtained an eviction notice.

Police began harassment of young people in the area of Freedom House on June 3 and continued for next three nights. On June 6 police arrested 21, including Dillingham, in front of the group’s house to “forestall vandalism” and for “loud noise, profanity and general disorder.” A spontaneous demonstration outside the Bethesda police station was staged by about 50 people as word spread throughout the county.

While the arrests were taking place in Bethesda, Detective Gabriel C. Lamastra, who originally arrested Dillingham March 21, appeared before the Society of the Holy Name at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville. Lamastra appealed to those present to attend Dillingham’s upcoming circuit court trial and passed out copies of the Free Press that contained the caricature of Judge Pugh masturbating.  Lamastra was not arrested.

On June 7, Dillingham was arrested again when police confronted youths at a county parking garage across the street from Freedom House.  Dillingham was charged with “failure to move off public property when ordered by a police officer.” In response, 75 young people marched on the Bethesda police station.

By the end of the week, Dillingham had been charged with trespassing, disorderly conduct, creating a public nuisance and making excessive noise in addition to the failure to move charge.

Dillingham Re-Tried Before Jury for Obscenity

Dillingham’s re-trial in circuit court began on June 9.  The cartoon was “a shameful and morbid interest in sex, nudity and excretion” and thereby aroused “prurient interest,” according to state witness Ralph P. Oropollo, a Kensington psychologist.

Defense witness Frank Getlein, an art critic for the Washington Star, testified that the caricature was “clearly a political attack on a political figure on the grounds that the severity of his decisions is related to a perverted sexual condition.”

Freedom House Evicted: Bethesda, MD 1969

Dillingham outside Freedom House after eviction June 26, 1969. Photo: Brig Cabe. Courtesy DC Public Library, Washington Star Collection©Washington Post.

The jury began deliberations after 10 pm on June 10 and continued for nearly 5 hours.  The verdict of guilty was read at 3 am in front of several dozen Dillingham supporters who stayed through the night.  Later that morning, a court ordered Freedom House evicted.

Dillingham’s bail of $5,000 was continued and his lawyers quickly set about appealing the verdict.

The conviction and sentence drew widespread condemnation in letters to the Washington Post.  Many critics cited the disparity between Dillingham’s sentence and the June 1969 $300 fine given Prince George’s People’s Court Judge Richard E. Painter  for breaking the nose of a woman and threatening her with a revolver.

Drive Against Paper Continues

However, the verdict spurred jurisdictions in the Washington area to raise the level of their own campaigns against the paper.

On June 19, two street distributors were arrested in Arlington, VA and charged with displaying obscene literature for a cartoon contained in the Free Press by Robert Crumb that was then being displayed in an exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The following day, Fairfax, VA police arrested the owner of Discount Variety store after a police officer bought the paper.  Billy Morrow was charged with distributing obscene literature.

District police arrested Brian Neville that evening at 2nd and Pennsylvania Ave SE after he sold two copies of the paper to a detective.  Neville was also held on distribution of obscenity charges with a $1,000 bond.

On June 23, Prince George’s County police raided a College Park, MD store, seized 300 copies of the Free Press plus a “Wanted” poster of Jesus Christ.  Lawrence Woodruff, owner of the Joint Possession, and a 17-year old employee were charged with selling obscene literature.  Woodruff was also told he may be charged with “blasphemy.”

June 24, Alexandria, VA ordered police officers to arrest Free Press distributors.  According to the Washington Post, police went to two stores where they believed the paper was sold but came up empty as the owners told them they no longer carried the paper due to legal concerns.

By July, the ACLU filed several suits in federal court to enjoin police in the Washington area from “harassing, intimidating, persecuting and attempting to suppress the publication” of the newspaper. One of the suits sought both compensatory and punitive damages.

Attempt to Suppress the Paper Take a Toll

The crusade against the Free Press was taking a toll on the paper.  Printing and shipping the paper from New York added cost to an already precarious bottom line. The loss of advertisers, distributors and street sellers intimidated by the authorities’ campaign further cut into the finances of Free Press and the staff struggled to continue publishing.

The paper was further hurt by competition from the Quicksilver Times, a similar Washington area alternative paper, which began publishing in June 1969. Quicksilver’s politics differed from the Free Press in that it was more closely aligned with the Revolutionary Youth Movement faction of SDS.  The Free Press was also impaired by internal staff disagreements.

However, the Free Press won its first victory in September when the Pugh-ordered grand jury probe ended with no indictments.  The jury reviewed a number of documents and interviewed detective Lamastra, but concluded that criminal charges were not prudent.

In December 1969, the Free Press published what would turn out to be their last issue and reached an all time circulation high of 25,000.

In January the Free Press office was broken into and their files on undercover police officers were stolen while items of value were left alone.  Holes were knocked through the wall of an adjacent men’s room to gain access.  No arrests were made. The staff continued to struggle to put out another issue that would have covered the December 1969 Chicago police killing of Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton.

On January 28, 1970, Prince George’s Judge Roscoe Parker convicted Woodruff of distributing obscene material telling him that the Free Press was a “piece of trash” that “should be banned.”

Parker went to proclaim that, “To say that this is art is ridiculous. It’s obnoxious, truly obnoxious (and) …repulsive to even suggest” that the cartoons were art.  During the trial, Parker refused to allow a Prince George’s librarian to testify on community standards.  The Hyattsville MD branch of the library had the Free Press on its open shelf in the adult section and two other branches subscribed to the paper.

Subversive Law Thrown Out

The Free Press won a resounding victory February 2 when a three judge federal court threw out most of Maryland’s “Ober law” and

Joseph Forer, the attorney whose appeals overturned Dillingham’s obscenity conviction & gutted Maryland’s anti-subversive law in an undated photo.

criticized Judge Pugh.  The court left standing only the provisions that dealt with actual acts of violence and overt acts, striking down any parts dealing with speech or membership.

In specifically rebuking Pugh, the court held that any indictments against the Free Press would have been unconstitutional, “based only on the facts submitted to the grand jury by Judge Pugh.”  State Attorney General Francis Burch was quoted in the Washington Post saying that the “Ober law” was now “almost impotent.”

After nearly three months of struggling to overcome its financial problems, the Free Press officially announced they were unable to continue publishing in March 1970.  The newspaper, however, continued to live and fight in the courts.

Dillingham Cleared of Obscenity

Dillingham received a birthday present July 15, 1970 when the Maryland Court of Special Appeals reversed his obscenity conviction for selling the Free Press.

Judge Charles A. Thompson said in the majority opinion, “Although Freudian concepts of sexual motivation for human conduct, as expressed by the cartoon, have come under fire recently, they are not so discredited that the Court could say those ideas are utterly without social worth.”  The court also found that the caricature of Judge Pugh had not exceeded contemporary community standards and that it did not appeal to prurient interests.

At the time of the decision, Dillingham was continuing his fight against repression by running for Montgomery County Sheriff on a platform of disarming all law enforcement officers and freeing all political prisoners.

The Free Press continued its string of victories after its death when a three-judge federal panel invalidated requirements that determined who could sell newspapers on city streets.  Fingerprinting had been one of the requirements to get a license.  On February 12, 1971 the judges found the city’s bureau of licenses and inspections had “no appropriate standards” to determine who received licenses.

The ruling came over “Tasty Comix” that had originally been distributed as part of the Free Press, but continued to be suppressed as a separate publication on street corners after the Free Press ceased publication.

In August 1971, Federal District Judge Howard Corcoran declared a National Park Service rule that had been used as the basis to arrest street vendors of alternative newspapers unconstitutional.  Corcoran ruled on a suit brought by the long dead Free Press that the rule was “overly broad” and had served as a prior restrain on free speech.

Corcoran warned police that “there should be no repetition of police activities” in which vendors were arrested for lacking a license to sell newspapers.  Parks are “areas traditionally open to the public for the exercise of First Amendment rights…such parks as Dupont Circle, Farragut Square and Lafayette Square lie in the center of business activities…and are often the sites for demonstrations.”

Courts Rule Free Press Not Suppressed

The Free Press wasn’t the only newspaper targeted in that time period.  The Quicksilver Times was declared obscene in February 1970 by a judge in St. Mary’s County, MD  after Scott Bennett was arrested with 50 copies getting off a bus in Lexington Park.  The Voice from the Mother Country was suppressed in May 1970 after an FBI raid on its offices ostensibly looking for Cathlyn Platt Wilkerson, a Weather Underground fugitive.

Black Panther Party newspaper vendors were also harassed.  In August 1970, police arrested a man for selling the Black Panther paper in front of a Montgomery County drug store.

Despite winning in court on nearly every substantial issue, on May 16, 1973, the US Court of Appeals upheld a District Court ruling that metropolitan police had not consistently suppressed the Washington Free Press and Quicksilver Times newspapers, denying their request for claims and the ability to present additional evidence concerning police harassment.

In essence, the string of court rulings gave police the green light to suppress free speech and press activities in the moment while overturning those actions later after the threat had subsided.  Nonetheless, the Free Press wins in court over repressive anti-subversive, obscenity and restrictive news distribution laws were real victories.

Author’s Notes: Many of the participants on the Free Press side of the fight are unknown.  Many went by first names only.  Among those who should be recognized are J. Brinton Dillingham, Joseph Forer and all the Free Press staffers including first among equals, Christopher Webber.  Bill Blum, who founded the paper along with seven others, should also be acknowledged.   And last but not least, all the Free Press vendors and street distributors who took the brunt of the harassment and arrests.

Most of the information in this posting came from the Washington Post, Star and Free Press and from court documents.

Craig Simpson is a former Secretary-Treasurer of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and has a BA in labor studies from the National Labor College.  He can be contacted by e-mail at washington_area_spark@yahoo.com.