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

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

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.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs