Do you know these women and little girls? If so, I need to hear from you.
For many years, I’ve been interested in the story of the desegregation of Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. As a news cameraman in Baltimore for more than a decade, I periodically ran across the story and began researching events surrounding the park’s opening to Blacks in the summer of 1963.
Later this year, I will release “All the King’s Horses: The Story of Gwynn Oak Amusement Park,” a documentary which chronicles the efforts of many ordinary, everyday people to desegregate the privately-owned recreation facility during Maryland’s racially charged and turbulent civil rights era.
Buried in the memories of old timers and elder statesmen, the images of the opening of the park to Blacks are unknown to many. While the Civil Rights Movement is typically referenced in relation to events that happened in the Deep South—Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, battles also were waged right here in Maryland.
The year 1963 was a restless time in the state, from Baltimore, where then-Morgan State College students staged protests at the Northwood Movie Theater, to the bucolic Eastern Shore town of Cambridge, where racial unrest erupted.
Blacks were not alone in the struggle. As in Selma and Montgomery, Blacks marched side by side with Whites and Jews—priests, rabbis, ministers, businessmen, teachers and students. Many of these unlikely protesters were not the targets of discrimination. Yet they left their comfortable homes, businesses and busy lives to join the fight for freedom; they were jeered, spat upon and even beaten. This documentary attempts to capture the essence of not only their struggle, but also their motivation to be engaged in the fight.
My wife and filmmaker Beverly O’Neal and I have amassed more than 15 hours of eyewitness accounts and personal narratives from those involved in the desegregation of the park. All sides are included, those who were allowed in to those who were not. Original photographs from the now-defunct News American newspaper, newly uncovered film footage and artifacts stored in garages and basements for the past 50 years provide a clear account of events and players.
Exactly who were the people involved? Where were they from? What was their motivation?
Research was collected from the AFRO American Newspapers, the Enoch Pratt Library, the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Maryland Historical Society and the University of Baltimore Langley Library Special Collections, among others.
Do you know these women and girls, if so, please contact me care of firstname.lastname@example.org. They are among the few pieces of the puzzle that I have left to find. These pictures were taken in the park on Aug. 28, 1963, the first day it was opened to Blacks. The women were likely in her 20s. They’re probably in their late 60s or older now.
They marched into the park to take their place in history as hundreds of thousands of Blacks took part in the historic March on Washington on the National Mall in Washington D.C.