Students and allies force racial integration of Glen Echo Park, MD, 1960-1961

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Timing
Time Period:  
June
1960
to
March
1961
Location and Goals
Country: 
United States
Location City/State/Province: 
Montgomery County, Maryland
Location Description: 
Glen Echo Amusement Park
Goals: 
The goal of the students was to integrate the Glen Echo Amusement Park, according to Jan Leighton Triggs, Historian of the Nonviolent Action Group.
 

In early May and June of 1960, students from Howard University, a historically black college, joined the ongoing civil rights movement by picketing the White House in D.C. and conducting sit-ins and pickets at segregated Woolworth chain stores in the D.C. area. These early actions led by Paul Dietrich, Stokely Carmichael, John Moody, Jan Triggs, Dion Diamond, Gwendolyn Green, Joan Trumpauer, and others spread interest for a more organized form of action by Howard students.

Reverend Lawrence Henry held formal meetings for Howard students interested in nonviolently protesting segregation and led a group that held sit-ins at various segregated establishments. These students met with church leaders to gain local support, and were successful in desegregating Drug Fair Chain Store lunch counters through sitting in. By June 23 the Drug Fair Board of Directors integrated all Drug Fair lunch counters.

On June 26 1960 the group of activists met and officially labeled themselves the Nonviolent Action Group, and decided to integrate the Glenn Echo Amusement Park. On 30 June 12 members of the Nonviolent Action Group including Reverend Lawrence Henry and the secretary of the Nonviolent Action Group Gwendolyn Greene, who had been heavily involved in the Drug Fair sit-ins, held a sit-in on the merry-go-round at Glen-Echo-Park.

Five of the protesters were arrested for trespassing and all 12 were removed from the park. Rev. Henry declared that the Nonviolent Action Group would continue to picket the park until it was integrated.

On 30 June an unconfirmed number of people between 24 and 75 including members of the Nonviolent Action Group as well as members of the local Jewish Bannockburn community who supported them began picketing at the Glen Echo Amusement Park.

Shortly after picketing began, George Lincoln Rockwell, an American Nazi Party leader, led an American Nazi Party counter-protest, which marched parallel to the picketers while heckling them. On 1 July three protesters were arrested for trespassing. On 2 July five protesters were arrested for trespassing in a restaurant in Glenn Echo.

On 3 July members of the American Nazi Party attacked some of the Nonviolent Action Group picketers with fists and rocks, and in the chaos as the picketers attempted to protect themselves police arrested two of the Nonviolent Action Group picketers for disorderly conduct.

On 4 June representatives from the park called for negotiations, and the Nonviolent Action Group ceased picketing. However, the owners of the park were unwilling to integrate, and protesters resumed picketing and filed a lawsuit in the Baltimore Federal Court to bar state action from the police for enforcing unconstitutional segregation laws.

Meanwhile, the attention being drawn to the Glen Echo Park’s segregation policies led the Montgomery County City Council to create a human relations committee to discuss the County Recreation Department’s use of the segregated pool at Glen Echo on 12 July. Picketing by both the Nonviolent Action Group and the American Nazi Party continued.

On 31 July members of the American Nazi Party attacked some of the Nonviolent Action Group picketers again with fists, and one of the attackers was arrested.

On 2 August Dion Diamond, a leader of the Nonviolent Action Group, was arrested for assault and battery while using a phone booth at Glenn Echo. In court, Diamond and his lawyer later showed these charges to be unfounded.

On 3 August Police arrested Reverend Lawrence Henry in Glen Echo and beat him severely, then they took him to a hospital before taking him to the jail where Diamond was imprisoned. Dion Diamond and Lawrence Henry both refused to eat over the time they were in jail, and police released them from jail on 5 August.

On 13 August the Nonviolent Action Group petitioned the Federal Trade Commission to take action against the Glen Echo Park’s television and radio advertisements, which said “Come One, Come All,” on the grounds that it contradicted the parks segregation policies and was false advertisement.

Meanwhile, the committee established by the Montgomery County City Council decided they no longer supported the Park’s segregation policies, and on 8 September the Montgomery County City Council stopped providing organized transportation for its residents to patronize the segregated pool at Glen Echo Park.

As two members of the Nonviolent Action Group left their meeting in Glenn Echo on 10 September, they were arrested on traffic charges that the officers later dropped.

On 11 September, the park closed for the season. The campaigners stopped picketing but vowed they would return the next year, and maintained communication with the local communities to maintain momentum. During the last week of October, for example, 124 students from Howard University, American University, and Antioch University visited churches across Maryland to rally community support for the campaign.

Meanwhile, Bannockburn resident Hyman Bookbinder, newly appointed assistant to the Secretary of Commerce, sought assistance from US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, hoping that Kennedy (brother of U.S. President John. F. Kennedy) would be able to influence the Park’s owners to integrate the Park.

In February 1961, Robert Kennedy threatened the owners of the Glen Echo Park that he would have the federal government revoke the lease upon which the trolley that provided transportation to the park ran. This trolley let passengers out right in front of the park, and was the main means of transportation that patrons used to access the park.

On 14 March 1961 the owners of the Glen Echo Park announced that the park would be open to any patron regardless of skin color. The campaigners achieved their goal.

Research Notes
Influences: 

The students of the Nonviolent Action Group were influenced by the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956 and also of their own campaign integrating the Drug Fair lunch counters that occurred earlier that month.

Sources: 
Triggs, Jan L, and John P. Dietrich. "Freedom Movement in Washington DC: 1960-61 Based on Actions of the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG)." Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. N.p., 1961. Revised 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Rojas, Rick. "Glenn Echo Park Remembers Summer of Change." The Washington Post. D.C.]. The Washington Post, 27 June 2010. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Schulte, Bridgid. "Protest on a Sculpted Horse." The Washington Post. D.C.]. The Washington Post, 29 June 2004. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

"A Summer of Change: The Civil Rights Story of Glenn Echo Park." The US National Park Service. The United States Government, n.d. Web. 20 Feb. 2014.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy: 
Tom McGovern 24/02/2014