Civil Rights Unrest at Glen Echo – 1960

With the passing of Rosa Parks, now seems like a good time to revisit a local episode in the history of civil rights that didn’t involve a march on the Mall.

So I was out at Glen Echo Park again yesterday, and while I was there, I picked up a card with an interesting looking photo on it. (Yes, I know Tom just posted about Glen Echo recently, but it’s the site we’ve chosen for our wedding reception, so you can suck it up and learn something.)

The photo is of a black college student in a tie, sitting on one of the park’s carousel horses (a carousel rabbit, actually), being confronted by a white security guard. The confrontation looks civil, mostly words being exchanged, and not even particularly heated ones at that, but it was the back of the card that told the story.

The student was Marvous Saunders, part of a group led by Lawrence Henry, a divinity student at Howard University. He lead a group of students in a series of peaceful protests around the DC area that summer of 1960, including a sit-in on the carousel in Glen Echo. The students were told to leave the park or face arrest, as the park (privately owned at the time) was only open to white people.

For the next 10 weeks, the surrounding community joined with the students in protests outside of Glen Echo. Finally, the owners of the park announced (without much fanfare) that it would be open to black people as well the following season.

You can read the Washington Post’s story about it from last summer here.

1 Comment so far

  1. Richard Ault (unregistered) on October 26th, 2005 @ 3:36 pm

    Thanks Tiffany. I spent my childhood around the corner from Glen Echo, and although this incident precedes my birth by a few years I’m still intrigued by this story. Growing up in DC/MD I learned firsthand how pervasive racism was in the metro area. The city was effectively segregated through most of the 70’s, startling to me even now. Especially considering that we are talking about the capitol of the nation.

    In my memory Glen Echo was closed entirely, somewhat ramshackle, and definitely not somewhere approved for kids. Which is exactly why we would occassionaly venture into the wreckage to adventure. I haven’t been back since it was restored, but I hear it’s quite a cultural center now. Good info can be found on the Park Services website and this extended homepage for the park.



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