Fifty years ago this week, following a massive July 4-7, 1963 demonstration protesting the segregation of the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park, nearly 400 people were arrested.
Sunday, hundreds again gathered in the park, celebrating the successful demonstration, considered one of the key moments of the Civil Rights era in Baltimore. The amusement park opened to African Americans a month and a half after the protests.
“History has been lost on a lot of today’s generation,” Beverly O’Neal, one of the organizers of this weekend's event, told WMAR. “Many aren’t even aware of this historic event that happened right here in our home town. We felt it was important to tell this story."
The daylong celebration yesterday offered live music, food, arts and crafts, and a storytelling area where visitors could listen to reflections about the protests and the eventual desegregation of Gwynn Oak Amusement Park.
According to a website dedicated to promoting yesterday's celebration, then-Baltimore County Executive Spiro Agnew ultimately negotiated a desegration agreement with the park owners. And, on August 28, 1963—the park’s first day without segregation—"a little girl named Sharon Langley became the first African-American child to go on a ride there, taking a spin on the merry-go-round."
The park closed nine years later after flooding from Hurricane Agnes.
Gwynn Oak Amusement Park's carousel now sits on the Washington Mall, where it remains in use, just outside the Smithsonian's headquarters.