1. The Nation: The ‘Creative Chaos’ of Gloria Richardson (1922–2021)
I don’t remember the first time I saw the picture of Gloria Richardson pushing away the bayonet of a National Guardsman’s rifle, but I’ve thought about that image a lot over the past few months. The iconic photograph was also used as the header image for Namwali Serpell’s essay “Unbothered” in the Yale Review.
The feminist activist and scholar Barbara Smith “learned about Gloria Richardson when I was a teenager in the early 1960s . . . I might have seen Richardson on TV, but more likely it was in the pages of Ebony, Jet, or the Call and Post, Cleveland’s Black newspaper. Although I had no real concept of sexism or gender politics at the time, Richardson made an impression because it was so unusual to see a Black woman out front leading.”
A leader in the Civil Rights Movement, Richardson died on July 15 at the age of 99. Richardson began organizing in 1962 at the age of 40, and became a leader in the SNCC-affiliated Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee which subsequently “expanded its demands beyond the traditional civil rights focus on desegregation to include jobs, decent housing, and health care.”
While “Richardson’s politics are not necessarily easy to categorize, but at the end of the day, she was a race woman—a woman devoted to the betterment of Black people in America . . . At a time when there is increasing recognition that Black women’s vision and leadership are critical to the survival of the nation, many who might be inspired by Richardson’s extraordinary life have never heard of her. Now that she is an ancestor, I hope they will.”