Gwynn Oak Park to unveil mosaic at festival in celebration of desegregation of amusement park 60 years later

Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at The Baltimore Sun.

BALTIMORE, MD--August 28, 1963--Sharon Langley, 11 mos., keeps a firm grip on her thumb as she bobs up and down on the merry-go-round at Gywnn Oak Park, the first member of her race to ride the devices at the amusement park.  Holding her is her father, Charles Langley.  Park, scene of demonstrations last month was opened to Negroes yesterday for the first time. (file photo.)

On Aug. 28, 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., appeared at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. But the Langley family of West Arlington headed for Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Baltimore instead.

After a decade of protests and demonstrations to desegregate the park, 11-month-old Sharon Langley, along with her father, Charles C. “Buddy” Langley Jr., took a historic spin on the merry-go-round that day and became the first African Americans to ride an amusement attraction at the park. While that ride no longer remains at the park, the moment will always be remembered.


The protests regarding the park had ended after then-County Executive Spiro T. Agnew negotiated a settlement with Gwynn Oak’s owners to end their whites-only policy on Aug. 28.Sharon and her parents were the first African Americans to integrate the park.

The carousel that Sharon rode that day is on the National Mall in Washington. Her name is inscribed on one horseshoe and on a brass saddle plate.


On Aug. 27, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of that ride, The Gwynn Oak Mosaic Project and Unity Festival will unveil The Ride to Equality, a mosaic that tells the story of how the protests of 1963 brought about the end of segregation at this former whites-only amusement park.

The mosaic is a lesson in how people of many backgrounds — Black, white, Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant — united together to force positive social change in 1963. One side of the mosaic tells the history, designed by local artist, Herb Massie; the other side celebrates the diversity in the park and community today. It will be a photomosaic of images that people in the community will share, according to a news release.

The Morning Sun


Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

“I’m trying to bring the community together and just work toward some positive change within the community, and to motivate new young leaders,” said Dawn Seestedt, organizer of the Unity Festival. “I want to impact them enough to motivate them to get involved and be aware of what’s going around them as the advancements we have made over the years are being stepped on.”

The festival’s theme is “In Unity, There is Strength.” The event will honor the courageous people who fought for justice and equality in 1963 as an example of the value of diversity and the power of unity. It will be a multicultural event celebrating the community.

The festival will have music, food, free viewings of the documentary, “All the King’s Horses,” art workshops, virtual readings and discussions with Amy Nathan, co-author with Sharon Langley of “A Ride to Remember,” and author of “Round and Round Together,” and discussions with civil rights leaders and former Gwynn Oak protesters.

The Gwynn Oak Mosaic will be temporarily installed at Woodlawn Library, and then permanently installed at Gwynn Oak Park after park renovations are completed. It is supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council, and a series of community events in association with Baltimore County Recreation and Parks, Baltimore County Public Library, and the Maryland Center for History and Culture, the release said.

The festival is Aug. 27 at noon at Gwynn Oak Park, 5900 Gwynn Oak Ave.

For more information, visit gwynnoak60th.square.