Today is the 50th year since the first March on Washington. It had an enormous impact on the country and the world. How could one Black minister stand before a crowd of 250,000, and in a few words move a government and shame a people into positive action? It was before the internet and social media, before cell phones and cable tv, and before mega-churches. It was an age of proclaimed innocence. There are films of interviews with white women and politicians in Nashville at the time of the lunch counter sit-ins. These interviews show the feeling of privilege and their wish to keep the status quo.A few said they thought the ‘coloreds’ were happy. They did not know what all the concerns were about coming downtown to eat. The “I Have a Dream” speech, the integrated hundreds, and the peaceful demonstration all on television, hypnotized a nation. People who had agreed with the aspirations of Black people but had been silent now had the courage to speak out.
This was most important in the South where the more obvious actions had been supported by laws. A combination of a dignified Black American woman refusing to give up her seat on a bus and Dr Martin Luther King‘s speech helped to get Civil Rights legislation at the Federal level.
Before the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1949-48) King and I were among students from Georgia colleges and universities who participated in an Intercollegiate Student Council. We were from Spelman, Morehouse, Clark, Atlanta University, and University of Georgia, and other schools. It seemed we had an equal number of each race. We either volunteered or were campus leaders. Meetings were held once a month and rotated leadership by race. However, when we met at white schools every effort was made to get us in and out without being seen . Our white members protected us, shielding our entry.
These men and women were bound by the laws of the state as well as their schools. All of us were in some danger if found out. It was interesting to learn that young whites were meeting around the country to prepare for when the laws would free them to live their lives with any friends they wished. We made life-long friends through this organization. Many of us participated in supporting the Scripto workers on strike and attended a summer YM-YW Students-in-Industry project in Hartford, CT. The first to contact me when the voting rights law was passed was one of these college students.
Today, I have family and friends at the march. They wanted to be there because they were not born 50 years ago. This has made history real for them and their children. What future they will have is unknown. But today it looks brighter.
I would have words pouring about the march. See: We Are Moving on my website: