Category Archives: Marilyn Richardson

My Book on Maria W. Stewart

A nice shout-out for my Stewart book; a bit of call and response:


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Maria W. Stewart: Innovative Woman

Fascinating list; delighted to have my work included!

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Tug-O’-War For Cleopatra Statue

My late father, a history professor at DePaul University, would never have spoken the first words of this article. And a few other particulars of the story are less than accurate, but I am delighted to be able to archive the piece here.

This discovery, which sparked a bit of contention,  led ultimately to a happy conclusion with the Death of Cleopatra restored and displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Definitely worth a visit.




By Ron Grossman, 20 June 1988

Don`t be fooled by your textbooks’ silence, Marilyn Richardson`s father used to tell her. Black folks have a history, too. We just have to go out and find it.

Last month Richardson made her dad proud. In a storeroom of the Forest Park Mall, she found a long-lost work of Edmonia Lewis, the first black American to win international renown as an artist. It was, however, a bittersweet discovery.

“The Death of Cleopatra,” a life-sized sculpture commissioned for the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 in Philadelphia, was surrounded by last year`s Christmas decorations and paint cans.

Richardson said Frank Orland, head of the local history society, who had led her to the sculpture, told her that the statue needed “renovating” so it could be put on public view. The Egyptian queen’s white marble face and arms were to be redone in flesh tones, her robe in royal purple, she said Orland told her.

Orland, who also was seeking further information on the work, had taken charge of it two years ago, the latest in a string of caretakers dating to the turn of the century, including a racetrack owner, the Navy, the post office and a Cicero firefighter. None of them, though, knew the sculpture`s full story.

Orland refused to comment on his plans or to allow a photograph of the sculpture to be taken. In a phone interview, he said only, “The Queen is not ready to receive visitors.” He added that he would tell his side of the story in a forthcoming pamphlet, “Cleopatra the Great: Statue of Forest Park.”

“I was excited and heartsick both,” said Richardson, a humanities professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Staring me straight in the face was an important piece of black history which had been missing for 100 years. Only it was …

American Cocktail


Women’s Review of Books 


Here’s a link to the first review, which is mine.

 An African American Prima Donna


 Reynolds at 16 on the cover of the NAACP magazine, The Crisis

American Cocktail: A “Colored Girl” in the World

By Anita Reynolds, with Howard Miller. Edited by George Hutchinson

Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014, 333 pp. $29.95, hardcover

Reviewed by Marilyn Richardson

AnitaReynoldsAnita Reynolds, born in 1901 in Chicago, came of age in Los Angeles, California, during the heyday of silent films. She was a smart, clever, and vivacious teenager, who, as she says, early on “relished the role of prima donna.” She and her brother, Sumner, were encouraged in their interest in the arts by their exuberant family, both the bevy of kinfolk in California and the numerous far-flung peripatetic relatives who circled back to visit from time to time. School dropouts and Harvard graduates, their professions ranged from mail sorter at a post office to well-placed member of the foreign service…


Reynolds models a Chanel gown, 1938 


Wellesley Centers for Women Women’s Review of Books | Women’s Review of Books | Publications


Boston Women’s Memorial 10th Anniversary

Some of Susan Wilson’s wonderful photographs of the 10th anniversary of the unveiling of the Boston Women’s Memorial on Commonwealth Avenue. The sculptor, Meredith Bergmann, is also a respected poet, and chose to read a poem for the occasion.

Marie Turley


Marie Turley shepherded the project through all the years of planning and political decisions. 

Meredith reads

The sculptor, Meredith Bergmann, reading a poem she wrote for the celebration.


A rare opportunity to see the model for an important work of art.

With Senator Warren

Mayor and Mrs. Menino, Senator Warren, major donors, students, and various public figures were all part of the enthusiastic audience.

Self Portrait Photo






Experimenting with photo apps and cropping.

A Scrapbook Post: Free South Africa

[Once in a while, articles, videos, other public items from my past, turn up on line. I post them here out of all chronological sequence as random scrapbook entries.]

The Tech - Online EditionMIT’s oldest and largest
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on the web

Case dismissed in apartheid protest

By Harold A. Stern

A Boston Municipal Court judge dismissed on Monday a case against 12 people for trespassing during a protest against the sale of the krugerrand, a South African gold coin, at a local currency exchange. Police had arrested 42 demonstrators for trespassing at the Boston branch of Deak-Perera Inc., one of the largest coin dealerships in the nation, last December. Twelve of them asked for a jury trial.

Three MIT faculty members were among the defendants: Willard R. Johnson, professor of political science at MIT and president of TransAfrica, a lobbying group for Africa and the Caribbean; Melvin H. King, adjunct professor of Urban Studies and former mayoral candidate in Boston; and Marilyn Richardson, assistant professor in the Writing Program. Over 1900 people have been arrested nationally in demonstrations against South Africa’s apartheid system, Johnson said.

The trial

The demonstrators requested a jury trial for some of their members “in order to get it into the public record the context and motivations” behind the protest, Johnson said. The defendants had offered a compromise to District Attorney John Gibbons. They would not demand a jury trial for all of the people arrested. They would consolidate their case into one trial if they were given a jury trial, Johnson continued. He admitted there was a risk involved for the twelve who agreed to have their cases put on trial. The maximum applicable penalty was 30 days in jail. “But we felt confident we could convince a jury of peers that we are public servants,” Johnson said.

Reasons for dismissal

Evidently, Johnson claimed, the defendants were “convincing enough in their general outline of approach,” because the judge “felt the outcome was predictable.” The judge dismissed the case after Gibbons advised that “the issues being raised by the defendants are serious, but this is not the forum,” according to The New York Times. Gibbons felt they would tie “up the Boston Municipal Court for a four or five day trial over a charge of trespassing … going to the trouble and expense of a jury trial is not worth the commonwealth’s time or money.” Richardson attributed the District Attorney’s reluctance to see the case come to trial to the demonstrators’ superior resources. “What we can speculate is that we had 12 defendants, four lawyers, and six expert witnesses,” she said, “while the District Attorney had to present the prosecution’s arguments himself. The imbalance in preparation and expertise was substantial.”Richardson said Gibbons was in a no-win situation. If he had won the case, “the commonwealth would have appeared to be successful in defending a pro-South African position.”

Reasons for protests

Richardson said the protests resulted from “a year of particularly vicious repression in South Africa. “The demonstrators are “fundamentally trying to provoke some change in South Africa,” Johnson said. Among their demands were the immediate release of imprisoned black political and labor leaders, and a constitution which gives blacks representation.

The protestors accused the United States of being too accomodating of the South Africans. Johnson said South Africa can now “see a friend in Washington,” because the Reagan Administration lifted trade restrictions with that country. “The krugerrand is the most important export item of the South Africans,” he said. Its sale puts billions of dollars in their treasury. Demonstrations have been held at several locations where the coin is sold. Four places have ceased to deal in them, according to Johnson. “We also want to raise the American public’s consciousness of the racist government. Our demonstration and attempt to have a jury trial contributes greatly,” Richardson said.

Continuation of demonstrations

After the defendants were released, they continued their vigil outside Deak-Perera, Johnson said. The protesters requested a meeting with the top management of the company “to give them a rational explanation” why they should stop selling the krugerrand, he continued. Johnson asked Christopher D’Elia, manager of the store, to convey their demands to the owners in New York. They requested “an immediate temporary suspension of the handling of krugerrands, until a meeting is arranged with management.”

D’Elia replied that while he did not believe that “the protest was an appropriate method of communication,” the demonstrators were welcome to enter the store, according to Johnson. Johnson then called Lesley Deak, president of the holding company which owns Deak-Perera. “His secretary said he will not take our call until the demonstration is called off.” “This was not something that you could expect us to comply with. I told him that we confined [the protest] to Boston. If that was not sufficient, we have demonstrations planned in other sites,” he said.

The protests have been continuing at Deak-Perera on a regular basis, about two or three times a week.Issue 7

Mass Humanities : Long Road to Justice

Mass Humanities : Long Road to Justice.

A Scrapbook Entry

[Scrapbook entries are occasional posts of events in which I was involved over the years. They turn up on Google and I post them – – wildly out of any chronological sequence]

A show I curated which traveled throughout Massachusetts from 2000 through 2003.