Half a Century of the Dream

Capitol Hill Residents Plan Commemoration of 1963 March on Washington

A view of the March on WashJust as they gathered 50 years ago to join the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Capitol Hill neighbors are again coming together for a day commemorating the marchers and their stories. On August 28, 1963, Washington and the nation converged to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. address an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 marchers with his “I Have a Dream” speech. Now the voices of memory and personal experience will converge to bring impressions, emotions, and implications of that day to a wider audience. Hill residents are organizing a multifaceted remembrance of the event, to be held on Saturday, February 23, 2013.

“Were You There? Remembering the 1963 March on Washington,” presented during Black History Month, aims to preserve and share the history of the March and involve younger generations in Dr. King’s monumental voice. Capitol Hill Village and The Overbeck Capitol Hill History Project are co-sponsoring the commemoration, which will include a keynote speaker, moderated panel discussion, and student speech contest.

Passing on the Dream

The discussion started earlier this year at the Hill Center, where Hill residents shared their memories of August 28, 1963. Those present remembered a day defined both by the simmering late summer heat and a pervasive sense of hope. The memory session sparked interest in carrying the spirit of remembrance further, into the March’s 50th anniversary in 2013.

The memories brought back to life at the Hill Center gathering were electrifying – stories of standing close to Dr. King at the Lincoln Memorial as he delivered his hymn-like, eloquent speech, watching well-dressed marchers set out for the protest in heels and gloves in the August heat, manning a lemonade stand for thirsty marchers, feeling a collective optimism beaming among the masses of peaceful protestors. But Capitol Hill also remembered the reality of 1960s Washington—being warned not to go into work that day for fear of violence, and standing on the Mall as white police aired racist sentiments. Even if you were nowhere near existence in 1963, the memories of the March on Washington still seep into everyday life in America, 50 years on.

“Always March Ahead”

So how can you be a part of the dream? The February 2013 event offers myriad ways to keep the story going.  To that end, neighborhood students will be invited to write an updated version of King's “I Have a Dream” speech. The winners will present their speeches at the event, counterpointing the personal experiences of those present in 1963. To archive these individual stories from the March, the Overbeck Project is dedicating a new section of its website to their preservation. If you have a story about that day in August 50 years ago, or wish to keep alive the story of someone who was there, keep checking CapitolHillHistory.org for the new link to be announced.  The organizers would also like to hear from teachers or principals who would like their students to participate in the “I Have a Dream contest.”

“Were You There?” has been a volunteer-led effort from the start and is recruiting more to work on two committees—one to select the panel of speakers, and one to manage the student speech competition.  The stories of August 28, 1963 need to be heard and discussed anew, furthering the dream that carried the nation through half a century of both confusion and uplift.

To share your story, participate in the “I Have a Dream” contest,  or  volunteer for the “Were You There” event on February 23, 2013, contact Pat Brocket by e-mail: pbrockett@dwx.com, or by phone: (202) 546-0598



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