AUC Civil Rights Veterans Tell Current Students About the 1963 March on Washington
29 Aug 2013
Posted by Add Seymour Jr.
By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
An estimated 250,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. under a sunny, pleasant sky on August 28, 1963.
But it was hardly a pleasure trip, former Atlanta Student Movement member Charles Black told a group of students during a Teach In at the Robert W. Woodruff Atlanta University Center Library exactly 50 years later.
“It wasn’t a celebration,” he told the students. “The people who were there for the most part were actively involved in movements back home. They were representatives of the masses of people and had come to Washington, not to praise the leadership that was there. They came to make the statement loud and clear: ‘We’re not cooling off. We are not stopping. We are not going to be patient. This movement is moving on until we see the end result that we demand.’”
Black’s recollections were part of a teach-in, sponsored by the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection. It gave AUC students an opportunity to hear in-depth what the mood and thoughts were of marchers that day.
Black was pat of a three-person panel of marchers from 1963. Other panelists were Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee member Doris Derby and Lonnie King ’69, the founding chairman of the Atlanta Student Movement.
“We were trying to appeal to the conscience of America to bring about a change,” King said.
Moderated by King Collection director Vicki Crawford, the discussion included a multi-media presentation by Morehouse history professor Larry Spruill of the historic events that occurred in 1963, such as the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and civil rights activist Medgar Evers.
But the march was the focus of the discussion.
King said these kinds of conversations can help college students understand what they need to do to become the new generation of civil rights activists.
“Because we’ve got to save our people,” he said. “We’ve got to find a way to merge the wisdom of people like me with the enthusiasm of young people to form a team who can do the hard work,” he said.
More importantly, Black said it was vital that students use the words of speakers at the March on Washington in 1963, such as Martin Luther King Jr. ’48, to continue the civil rights movement today.
“If you’re not fighting this battle, then you are not looking around you,” he said. “If you’re not mad as hell about something, you’re not paying attention.”