News / USA

Women Recall '63 March on Washington

Women Recall the '63 March on Washingtoni
August 27, 2013 7:01 PM
Women were instrumental to the Civil Rights movement in the United States and helped rally the people who attended the March on Washington 50 years ago. If you look at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, however, the key speakers were male. VOA's Suzanne Presto in Washington has more.
Women Recall the '63 March on Washington
Suzanne Presto
In August of 1963, an estimated 250,000 people from across the country gathered for the March on Washington to call for racial equality.        

The turnout on the National Mall was a credit to organizers such as Eleanor Holmes Norton. She is now a congresswoman, and back in 1963 she worked in New York City publicizing the march and arranging transportation to the capital.  

Norton stayed in New York to help with last-minute arrangements the night before the march, and she recalls the view as she flew into Washington the morning of the event.

"You could already see people assembling in such large numbers that it was clear, unmistakably clear to me, that this march was going to be successful," she said.

"We stood there in amazement"

Among those gathered that day was Thelma Daley, now chair of Women in the NAACP, a civil rights organization. She reflected upon the events of August 28, 1963, at a recent event in Washington.     

Daley attended the march with friends after learning about it from Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women.

"We stood there in amazement because we were early and we were up front, and we could see people coming and coming and coming and coming," she said. "You look back and you say, 'Gee, you were really a part of that.'  And you never realize
at the moment that you are a part of history."

She recalled seeing people of different races and ages, carrying a variety of signs.  While the crowd's diversity struck Daley, so did a lack of diversity at the speakers' podium.  

"We were all so excited that Dr. Height was going to be on the stage, and the amazing thing is that we were waiting for Dr. Height to speak," she said. "I have to tell you that.  We were waiting, the group of us who had come.  We didn't know the full story then."

The story was that Height was not among the designated speakers, despite her prominence.  

Aside from a brief tribute to black women, the female voices on stage that day were heard singing, not speaking.  

Honoring girls and women

Yet women helped organize the movement, and both women and girls were key figures in flashpoint moments in history.  

Take Ruby Bridges, the first black student to attend a desegregated school in New Orleans in 1960. She inspired a famous Norman Rockwell painting that depicts a small girl with a ribbon in her hair and schoolbooks in hand, protected by federal marshals as she walks past a racial slur that had been scrawled on the school.   
Ruby Bridges Hall met with President Barack Obama at the White House in 2011 when the iconic painting was on display there.  

"The girl in that painting at six years old knew absolutely nothing about racism," she said. "I was going to school that day."

Another moment seared into the nation's memory: a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, that killed four little black girls. The murders, just weeks after the March on Washington, triggered protests and nationwide outrage. This year, posthumously, the four girls were awarded Congressional Gold Medals.

Then there was the incident involving Rosa Parks, a name synonymous with civil rights. In 1955, Parks refused to move to the back of a bus in the segregated South and was arrested. Black residents of Montgomery, Alabama, staged a yearlong bus boycott in protest.  

A statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled in the Capitol this year. At the ceremony, President Obama said Parks lived a life of activism, dignity and grace.

"And in a single moment, with the simplest of gestures, she helped change America - and change the world," he said.

You May Like

US, China Have Dueling Definitions of Cybersecurity

Analysts say attribution or or proving that a particular individual or government is responsible for a hack, is a daunting task More

Snowden: I'd Go to Prison to Return to US

Former NSA contractor says he has not received a formal plea-deal offer from US officials, who consider him to be a traitor More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs