Memories from the March on Washington, 1963

A guest blog post by JMM Esther’s Place volunteer Stephany Gilbert.

Having been involved in the Civil Rights Movement for several years, I felt it was extremely important to participate in the March on Washington in 1963. My family knew of my involvement and agreed that I should go, but I was not to tell my grandfather for fear he would worry too much! There had been a lot of talk about the John Birchers counter-protesting and the possibility of violence.

Black and white photo showing a large crowd of mostly Black people standing inside a building with tall, arched ceilings. A side is being held up that reads “Crusade for voters Savannah Freedom Now Movement S.C.L.C.”
Marchers arriving at Union Station for the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Photo by Marion S. Trikosko, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A friend and I drove to the Washington Metro and took the train into the city. When we emerged from the station, we saw a sea of people! Black, white, young, old, male, female!!! It was wonderful!!!! It was the way the world should be! We found a group from New Jersey (my father’s home state) to join. We marched, we sang, we talked, we made new friends, we discussed possibilities…. It was amazing!

Black and white photograph of a crowd of marchers hold signs with messages like “We March for Integrated Schools Now,” “We March for Jobs for all Now,” “We Demand an FEPC Law Now,” and similar.
Demonstrators marching in the street holding signs during the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Photo by Marion S. Trikosko, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

There was a significant police presence along the route, keeping the John Birchers away from us. I remember the taunting and yelling, but we kept to our task and ignored them as best as possible.

Alt text: Black and white photograph of an enormous crowd of people. The Washington Monument and reflecting pool are visible in the back of the photograph. The entire field between the photographer and the monument is full of people. An American flag can be seen held up near the middle of the photo.
View of the huge crowd from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, during the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Photo by Warren K. Leffler, courtesy of the Library of Congress.

When we arrived at the Lincoln Memorial, my friend and I squeezed towards the front and ended up close to the speakers. The entire day was so inspiring! The speeches, especially Dr. Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, were motivating…. and the singing was tremendous…. It was a day filled with possibilities. There was no violence nor talk of it. We were encouraged to peacefully protest, to peacefully discuss, to dream, and to peacefully achieve what we knew to be right!

Returning home, we knew the we could make a difference and change the world; we need this type of cohesion again!

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