In this combination of Associated Press file photo, at top, large crowds gather at the Lincoln Memorial to demonstrate for civil rights in Washington, on Aug. 28, 1963; and at bottom, participants gather on the same steps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march, Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in Washington. The 2013 event was an homage to a generation of activists that endured fire hoses, police abuse and indignities to demand equality for African Americans. (AP Photo/File)
In this combination of Associated Press file photos, at top, civil rights protestors march down Constitution Avenue carrying placards during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963; and at bottom, people rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. (AP Photo/File)
Civil rights leader Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., waves from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., Saturday, August 24, 2013. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT)
Tens of thousands of people marched to commemorate King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, pledging that his dream include equality for gays, Latinos, the poor and the disabled.
Jose Luis Magana • Associated Press,
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, criticized a recent Supreme Court decision on voting rights. “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us.”
Marchers, including Katrina Graves, had special fans to keep them cool on a hot August day in the nation’s capital. Another observance will be held Wednesday.
Todd Heisler • New York Times,
another call for justice, 50 years later
- Article by: Ashley Halsey III, Carol Morello and DeNeen L. Brown
- Washington Post
- August 24, 2013 - 10:33 PM
They gathered under crystal-clear skies that set a summer standard for perfection, transfixed by more than a score of speakers whose soaring rhetoric about the pursuit of freedom and justice was inspired by a standard of perfection set 50 years before.
They spoke of beatings and bloodshed, of ground that had been gained and of gains that felt threatened, of a generation that struggled against repression so the next generation might fare better, and of hope for a more perfect future.
“We never dreamed that we would be here 50 years later,” said the Rev. Joseph Lowery, 91, who helped lead a boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955, a seminal moment in the civil rights movement. “We never dreamed we would see an African-American president.”
Saturday was a day to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the historic Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington, and a vision one man delivered so forcefully that five decades later, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech ranks with Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech as among the most memorable in U.S. history.
‘In my father’s footsteps’
“Daddy is smiling up above, knowing that by your presence, you will keep his dream alive,” Martin Luther King III said from the top step of the Lincoln Memorial, where his father’s memorable speech capped the 1963 march. “I stand here today in this sacred place, in my father’s footsteps. I, like you, continue to feel his presence. This is not the time for self-congratulations. We can and must do more.”
Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., one of the few major speakers from the 1963 rally still alive, challenged listeners to push back against this year’s Supreme Court decision that struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The court’s 5 to 4 vote freed nine states from a requirement that they seek federal approval to change their election laws.
“I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama,” he said, referring to his brutal beating by police in gas masks that was captured by photographers in 1965 and awakened many Americans to repression in the South. “The vote is precious. It is almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent tool that we have. We must say to Congress: Fix the Voting Rights Act.”
His address received a standing ovation.
“Our vote was soaked in the blood of martyrs,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton, “and you cannot take it from us now.”
The actual 50th anniversary of the march falls on Wednesday, when President Obama will join former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, among others, to mark the occasion.
As the crowd swelled along the length of the Reflecting Pool and beyond Saturday, it created a mix of participants: those born after the 1963 march; those who had watched the march from afar; others too unaware at that time to have participated; and veterans of the civil rights movement who were mesmerized by the speeches of King and others that long-ago August.
‘There is still work to be done’
Newark Mayor Cory Booker, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in New Jersey this year, spoke directly to the young people. “My father told me: ‘Don’t walk around here thinking you hit a triple when you were born on third base,’ ” said Booker, 44. “ ‘You drink from a well you did not dig. There is still work to be done. Don’t sit back and think democracy is a spectator sport.’ ”
It was a message that resonated with Brianna Patterson. “We weren’t alive 50 years ago when it happened,” said Patterson, 20, who lives in Maryland. “Fifty years from now, we can look back and tell our children we were at the 50th anniversary March on Washington. We are keeping the dream alive.”
Mississippi native Minnie Wright, 56, was alive during that troubled era. She remembered that her mother taught her not to internalize the racism she experienced. “There were certain places that ‘knew how to handle their blacks,’ where you knew to keep your eyes straight ahead” because eye contact with whites was likely to spark confrontation, she said.
She recalled watching the original march on a black-and-white television — grasping at 6 years old that it was a big deal, but not understanding why.
Playwright Charles Randolph-Wright, about to turn 57, remembered listening to King’s speech in the basement of his cousin’s house in York, S.C. “Hearing that speech opened the door for us to fight, crawl, push and do whatever we had to do to make it through. I cannot help but imagine the disappointment King would have in seeing how polarized this nation has become. In many ways, I feel we have regressed, but then I see someone who looks like me in the White House and I talk to children whose only image of a president is a man of color, and I am so very grateful.”
© 2014 Star Tribune