50 Years Later, Retracing the March on Washington

BY  |  Wednesday, Aug 28, 2013 8:00am  |  COMMENTS (3)

march on washington

Top: My father-in-law, Edwin Gilmore, second from left.
Bottom: Our view from the March 2013.

Fifty years ago today, on August 28, 1963, my father-in-law, the late Dr. Edwin C. Gilmore, joined nearly 300,000 others at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Holding a sign that read, “We Demand Voting Rights Now!,” he marched with his brothers-in-law and friends and listened to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Fifty years later, this past Saturday, August 24, his son Gregory Gilmore, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters walked in his footsteps at the 50th anniversary March on Washington. An interracial family walking among a crowd of people of all ages and colors—it was a truly memorable day for my family.

When we planned our family trip to Washington DC, we weren’t aware that the anniversary march was scheduled. When we realized that the events were taking place during our visit, we thought it would be best to just go take a look from the outskirts to avoid the crowds with our young children. We hailed a cab to get us as close to the Lincoln Memorial as possible. Getting out at 21st and Constitution Avenue, we saw the news vans and crowd and the importance of what was happening became clear. We needed to share this experience with our daughters.

Many roads and entryways to the National Mall were closed off. Starting from 21st and Constitution Avenue, we joined the crowds on a narrow street making our way to 17th street, the only way in the the National Mall. The kids were getting tired and cranky, not really understanding why we were just walking. But once we finally made our way in and they saw so many signs and television crews, they started to understand that this was a momentous event.

march on washington

March on Washington 1963 (Wikipedia)

When the Lincoln Memorial finally came into sight, we all felt the power and importance of retracing the footsteps of those who walked before us in a time before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and (very meaningful for my family) the Loving v. Virginia case, which declared anti-miscegenation laws a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.  It was a time when no one imagined that an African-American (biracial just like our daughters) president would lead our country.

We explained to our daughters that the feeling and atmosphere was different fifty years ago. That things were much more difficult for Black people in 1963. And that they owe so much to those who marched and gave their lives before them, so that they could have the life they live today.

However, we were reminded that the words of Martin Luther King III rang true, “The task is not done. The journey is not complete. We can and we must do more, ” when my girls asked who the boy wearing the hoodie was on posters carried my many. We had to explain the story of Trayvon Martin, something we hadn’t done before because of their ages. But it felt like there was no time better than that day to do so.

We were reminded by Rep. John Lewis, an original marcher, who said “I am not going to stand by and let the Supreme Court take the right to vote away from us. You cannot stand by. You cannot sit down. You’ve got to stand up. Speak up, speak out and get in the way.”

We were reminded by local Newark Mayor, Cory Booker who said “Me and my generation cannot now afford to sit back consuming all of our blessings, getting dumb, fat and happy thinking we have achieved our freedoms.”

March on Washington

We were reminded by the very words that Dr. King spoke on August 28, 1963:

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights: “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating “For Whites Only.”

We cannot be satisfied and we will not be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

march on washington

Today from 11 am – 4 pm, The Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action Ceremony will close the anniversary events. It will take place at the Lincoln Memorial. President Obama and Presidents Clinton and Carter will be the featured speakers. At 3 pm, there will be a bell-ringing ceremony marking the time that Dr. King delivered his famous address.

We’re back in Montclair, but my family will be watching.

3 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Montclair Lover  |  August 28, 2013 @ 9:22 am

    Thank you very much for sharing.

  2. POSTED BY frankgg  |  August 28, 2013 @ 9:34 am

    The Martin Luther King Freedom Mural at the National Library In Washington was painted at 180 Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. Montclair resident and TV personality Gil Noble documented Monclair artist Don Miller’s MLK Freedom Mural, and all of the historic Civil Rights figures who came to see Miller creating the piece in his Montclair studio. On Noble’s ABC TV show, “Like It Is” a special episode was created, “The Making of the King Mural” documenting Don Miller’s monumental tribute to Dr. King.
    Many of Dr. King’s closest associates came to Mr. Miller’s 180 Bloomfield Avenue studio on August 27, 1985, to participate in an extraordinary taping in the artist’s studio setting using the Mural as a backdrop, for five hours they shared their experiences with Dr. King , and his important influence on their lives.
    While the Mural was being painted in the 2,500 square-foot converted ballroom, the space became more than an artist’s studio. The evolution of the Mural was not only witnessed by local friends and associates but also by many of the historic civil rights leaders who are portrayed. Mrs. Rosa Parks, the heroine of the Montgomery Bus Boycott made a pilgrimage to the Montclair studio, as did Dr. Caroline Goodman, the mother of the slain CORE worker Andrew Goodman, Reverend Ralph D. Abernathy, Mrs. Dorothy Cotton from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Atlanta’s Mayor Andrew Young, Rev C.T. Vivian and Rev Wyatt Tee Walker. Celebrities, visited like the great American pianist Don Shirley whose elegant music often served as an inspiration for the artist. Its ironic and sad to think that with all important history, a copy of this mural is not displayed anywere in town.

  3. POSTED BY silverleaf  |  August 28, 2013 @ 9:40 am

    Georgette – Your trip to our nation’s capital must have been a wonderful experience for the entire family. I am sure you are all very proud of your late father-in-law who marched fifty years ago today.

    As a teen, I remember the event very well and recall the TV and press coverage. I also remember the performances of Dylan, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul. Mary. It should be noted that organizing the event was not an easy task and met many obstacles.

    From Wiki . . . To avoid being perceived as radical, organizers rejected support from Communist groups. However, some politicians claimed that the March was Communist-inspired, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) produced numerous reports suggesting the same. In the days before August 28, the FBI called celebrity backers to inform them of the organizers’ communist connections and advising them to withdraw their support. When William C. Sullivan produced a lengthy report on August 23 suggesting that Communists had failed to appreciably infiltrate the civil rights movement, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover rejected its contents.[Strom Thurmond launched a prominent public attack on the March as Communist, and singled out Rustin in particular as a Communist and gay man.

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