LOCHEARN, Md. (WJZ) — Nearly six decades after Gwynn Oak Park became Maryland’s first amusement park to desegregate, a virtual discussion dove into the movement’s history and its parallels with modern times.
Program leaders said Wednesday’s discussion was aimed at providing insight on what’s happening in today’s world by connecting it with historical context.
For many, theme parks spark nostalgic memories, but not all hold the same recollections since not everyone was allowed to attend due to the color of their skin.
“Most amusement parks, most of them were created with a white-only admissions policy and were segregated from their beginning,” Martha Oster-Beal from the Maryland Historical Society said.
In the summer of 1963, following major civil rights campaigns, demonstrations and public protests, Baltimore County’s Gwynn Oak Park became one of the first in Maryland to desegregate.
“It really became this important piece of the civil rights movement,” Oster-Beal said.
Baltimore native Sharon Langley was the first Black child to enjoy the park on the day it was formally integrated, which was the same day s the March on Washington.
“Why is it important now? Because there’s still things in our society that need further change,” Langley, the author of “A Ride to Remember,” a book detailing her experience, said.
Langley was joined by her co-author Amy Nathan and Jason Rhodes, the author of “Images of America: Maryland’s Amusement Parks.
“It can really give a lot of insight into the kind of protests going on now,” Nathan said.
As the August 28 anniversary of the park’s integration approaches, Langley wants people to put their differences aside and reflect.
“What are the things that are important to us? What are the things that are important to me? And what can I begin to do?” she said.
For the latest events from the Maryland Historical Society, click here.