Many prominent and well-known figures greatly impacted the civil rights movement, but one of the most influential and unsung leaders of that period was Gloria Richardson. As the leader of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (CNAC), a multifaceted liberation campaign formed to target segregation and racial inequality in Cambridge, Maryland, Richardson advocated for economic justice and tactics beyond nonviolent demonstrations. Her philosophies and strategies—including her belief that black people had a right to self–defense—were adopted, often without credit, by a number of civil rights and black power leaders and activists.
The Struggle Is Eternal: Gloria Richardson and Black Liberation explores the largely forgotten but deeply significant life of this central figure and her determination to improve the lives of black people. Using a wide range of source materials, including interviews with Richardson and her personal papers, as well as interviews with dozens of her friends, relatives, and civil rights colleagues, Joseph R. Fitzgerald presents an all-encompassing narrative. From Richardson’s childhood in Baltimore, when her parents taught her the importance of racial pride, through the next eight decades, Fitzgerald relates a detailed and compelling story of her life. He reveals how Richardson’s human rights activism extended far beyond Cambridge and how her leadership style and vision for liberation were embraced by the younger activists of the black power movement, who would carry the struggle on throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s.
Joining author Joseph R. Fitzgerald will be Dion Banks & Kisha Petticolas of the Eastern Shore Network for Change, to situate Gloria Richardson's life and work within the continuing struggle for racial equity and justice on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Joseph Fitzgerald’s The Struggle Is Eternal is the first book to fully examine the Cambridge movement and its leader, Gloria Richardson. In 1963, I saw that unforgettable magazine photograph of Gloria Richardson calmly facing an armed contingent of soldiers who were sent to put down the movement she led in Cambridge, Maryland. Mrs. Richardson evolved into a civil rights leader whom the authorities considered almost as dangerous as Martin Luther King Jr. She remains engaged in the struggle for social justice to this day. I am thrilled that Fitzgerald’s work allows a broader audience to know Gloria Richardson, and to enhance their understanding of the civil rights movement, in which she played a significant role.
—Kathleen Cleaver, Emory University School of Law, and former communications secretary of the Black Panther Party
Gloria Richardson was front-page news at the helm of the militant Cambridge movement. Malcolm X admired her as the new brand of leadership in ‘A Message to the Grassroots’ and Stokely Carmichael followed her into battle, but somehow the history books lost her in their leading-man narrative of civil rights. Finally, students have the long-awaited Gloria Richardson biography. Read this book and rediscover a golden age of street fighting and self-defense spanning civil rights and black power.
—Komozi Woodard, author of A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics
No history of the civil rights movement is complete without understanding the life and work of Gloria Richardson. Finally, we have a serious biography of her that will deepen our understanding of the key organizing and leadership roles women like Richardson played in the struggle. Joseph Fitzgerald’s rich history of Richardson’s leadership of the Cambridge movement, which fought for housing, education, jobs, healthcare and desegregation, offers much for reckoning where we have been in this country and where we must go today.
—Jeanne Theoharis, author of The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks
Joseph R. Fitzgerald is assistant professor of history and political science at Cabrini University. His areas of focus include critical race feminism and the civil rights and black power waves of the modern black liberation movement.