Sunday , July 7, 1963, was the date of my first arrest, among protesters creating a "walk-in" aimed at ending racial segregation at Gwynn Oak amusement park in Baltimore. This coming July 7, 2013 (also a Sunday ) there will be a 50th-anniversary celebration in Baltimore of the desegregation of the park, which followed soon
The celebration will begin at 1 pm at 5900 Gwynn Oak Ave, zip 21207 -- the site of the amusement park, which has not operated for years. But if you have ridden the merry-go-round on the Mall in Washington, you've shared a relic of Gwynn Oak! (See below for a flyer with more information. The music begins at 1 pm ; the formal program, at 2:15 . I'll be there, and I'll be speaking. If you are within reaching distance of Baltimore, please come!)
The wave of public insistence on desegregation was moved partly by this photo that appeared on the front page of the Baltimore Sun, showing one of us -- Allison Turaj -- bleeding heavily from a cut on her face, with bloodstains on her dress, from a rock thrown by a pro-segregation mob who were already -- to our surprise -- inside the park..
by Rabbi Arthur Waskow
Others in the photo include (to Allison's right) Carol Cohen McEldowney, whose memory is a blessing; to her right, Todd Gitlin, now a well-known sociologist; and to Allison's left, me. I am carrying my shoes because we had to cross a stream to actually enter the park the back way, rather than be ritually arrested at the front entrance. As you can see in the photo, we are under arrest -- and the police who arrested us probably saved our lives from the mob
That summer, I wrote an essay on the arrests that appeared originally as an article in the Saturday Review. It was later published as the opening chapter of my book Running Riot: A Journey Through the Official Disasters and Creative Disorder of American Society (Herder and Herder,
Here are excerpts from that
At 11 o'clock on the morning of Sunday , July 7, 1963, I wrote the last paragraph of the last chapter of a scholarly study of a series of race riots that swept across the United States in 1919. At 5:30 that afternoon, I joined several men and women, white and Negro, to enter a Baltimore amusement park, Gwynn Oak, which had
By 5:40 , one of my companions had been badly hurt by a thrown rock, and all of us had been surrounded by a raging mob that, as I could recognize from my study of the 1919 riots, was whipping itself up to the point of assault
After the police had reached us and arrested us, our march to the paddy wagon brought us past some of the same cotton candy stands and thrill rides that I could remember from fifteen years ago. " I felt utterly pierced by the knowledge that this was my Baltimore, the mob my fellow Baltimoreans, showing me hatred that I had never had to face, but that Baltimore Negroes must have faced for
A basic question: if I feel that scholarship and writing are important tasks for me to keep on with (and I do), what place should something like civil disobedience have in my life? Scientists get exempted from the military draft; should intellectuals be exempted from nonviolent (but risky) protest? Ultimately, I decided it is dishonest to urge without undertaking, and impossible
I was prepared to go back to Gwynn Oak, but the management, under pressure of the demonstrations, agreed to integrate the park. I scarcely expect to be on the picket lines every Sunday . But where an event reaches out to touch my life again as this one did, I do not think I will be able to stay at my
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