Lord, I have lived three score and seven years as black man in America. As a young and sensitive black boy in the south in the 60’s, one white president gave me hope that, though a Negro, I could live a life akin to that of my white neighbors, full of civil rights and protections of The Constitution. I watched President John F. Kennedy on black and white television speak to the nation as a prophet and being to me the incarnation of hope for Negro America that finally the times were changing, even though our struggles would include much suffering and death. There would be beatings, attacks by dogs and billy clubs and much invective. You cannot imagine the shock this young naive boy felt on November 22, 1963, when a voice on my high p.a. system siad that ‘they’ killed Jack Kennedy and silenced the voice of hope. In my whole life no death has affected me more.God bless you John F. Kennedy. God save your soul!
[It is important to note that our hopes were not dashed. God also gave us Martin Luther King, another saint.]
In August of 1963, I was just out of high school and had a lot of curiosity about the civil rights movement. I grew up in Washington, a segregated city, and until 1954, I’d attended segregated schools.
On the day of the March on Washington, I put on a sport coat and a tie; it was sweltering hot. People were just more formal then.
The powers that be were afraid of violence – can’t have all those Negroes there without trouble! – but it was the opposite. People were peaceful, respectful. Joyous and reverent would describe the mood.
When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his famous speech it was all echoes to me. Still, I knew it was a historic moment because I could feel it in the crowd – this was the moment we’d all been waiting for.
This past Saturday, approximately 175,000 to 200,000 people gathered and marched in Washington, D.C. to call attention to the civil rights challenges of our time. When Martin Luther King III and I called for this rally, it was widely assumed that we would not be able to get even 100,000 to participate. Those naysayers couldn’t have been more wrong. At a time when so many Americans are gravely concerned about voting rights, jobs, gun violence and safety, hundreds of thousands traveled from across the country to join us because they understand the fierce urgency of now. While we acknowledge progress achieved during the last 50 years, we are not blind to the great injustices of today. On Wednesday, President Obama and others will commemorate the ‘March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.’ We will be a part of that celebration, but we remain passionate about the continuation of the actualization of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s dream that was represented on Saturday. Our work is far from over, but we, the people, are re-energized to tackle injustice head on.
1963 ARC Identifier 49737 / Local Identifier 306.3394. Scenes from Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C., August 1963. People walking up sidewalk; gathering on Mall, standing, singing. Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, crowd gathered on the Mall. People marching with signs, many men wearing UAW hats. People at speakers podium, men with guitars. Crowds outside of the White House, sign: The Catholic University of America. Band, people marching down street. Many signs, including All D.C. wants to vote! Home Rule for DC; Alpha Phi Alpha; and Woodstock Catholic Seminary for Equal Rights. Lincoln Memorial with crowds gathered around reflecting pool. People singing and clapping at speakers platform. Signs, people clapping. Man speaking, woman playing guitar and singing at podium. More speakers and shots of the crowd. A chorus, NAACP men in crowd. Close-ups of people in crowd with bowed heads. Shots taken from above of White House. More speakers, including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Women at podium singing We Shall Overcome. Crowd swaying, singing, holding hands. U.S. Information Agency. (1982 – 10/01/1999) Made possible by a donation from Public.Resource.Org.