Reporting Tim Williams
WOODLAWN, Md. (WJZ) — A place in Baltimore-area civil rights is memorialized. It’s been 50 years since the desegregation of Gwynn Oak Park in Woodlawn.
Tim Williams has more on the collaboration that helped make history.
Amusement parks are known for fun and good times.
“They had the ferris wheel; they had the safari ride,” said Larry Gilmer.
“I’d save my allowance; I would go right to the horses,” said Millicent Kolker-Shocket. “Twenty-five cents and I would go around.”
But in 1963, Gwynn Oak Park—near Woodlawn in Baltimore County—was anything but.
“Gwynn Oak Amusement Park was segregated up until 1963 and the summer of 1963 was the culmination of a 10-year struggle to get the park desegregated,” said Beverly O’Neal, who organized “Open the Gates.”
This “Opening the Gates” event commemorates the 50th anniversary of the park’s integration. The goal is to bring the park alive for one day.
“It just symbolizes unity and cooperation,” O’Neal said.
Historic footage of the park during July of 1963 documents the arm-in-arm non-violent protests of the time.
Rabbi Gila Ruskin taught a class on the event.
“People had such memories of Gwynn Oak Park, either good ones or not so good ones, of coming here as a child and enjoying themselves or being part of the protests,” Ruskin said.
The event gained national attention, which some say helped further the cause. Across race and religious lines, hundreds gathered to protest against Gwynn Oaks’ segregation. Some were met with violence and nearly 400 were arrested for trespassing.
While the park was desegregated on August 28th, the last day of protests happened on July 7th. A plaque commemorating that date was created by students at Carver Vocation Technical High School and will stand in this spot.
Memories, good and bad, and the history are now here for all to see.
Plaques commemorating the golden anniversary stand near the entrance to the park.