August 25, 2013 in Opinion

I Have A Dream

‘When the television broadcast came on and we saw the throng of people … I was astounded.’
Jerrelene Williamson
 

About the author

Jerrelene Williamson’s father was born in Spokane in 1899, where her family has resided since. She is a founding member of the Spokane Northwest Black Pioneers, established in 1989, and is the author of “Images of America: African Americans in Spokane,” published by Arcadia Publishing. In 2003, she received a Jefferson Award for service to the community from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. It was a day like any other day in our Spokane household, but there was excitement in the air. My husband, Sam, and our five children were very much into the fact that something great was going to happen on this day. We found out everything we could about the civil rights march for jobs and freedom that would be held in Washington, D.C.

Two of our daughters, Annette and Jennifer, wanted to be a part of this monumental day; however, my husband and I said “no.”

They were just 11 and 12 years old. We felt that there was a great risk to them if we allowed them to go. We had no idea what the consequences would be for them to attend, even with adult supervision.

As a family, we had watched all the news accounts of the unrest of the civil rights movement: the beatings of black children, the water hoses used against peaceful protest marchers, and all the other signs of hatred. We, in Spokane, did not march with the others in the movement, but our hearts were with each and every one of them.

When the television broadcast came on and we saw the throng of people around the Lincoln Memorial, I was astounded. There were so many people; all nationalities, movie stars, and very famous people. I told our children at the time that this was unheard of, and memorable. Such an outpouring of support for the cause of civil rights was an unexpected delight.

So many stirring songs arose out of the civil rights movement. Mahalia Jackson, Marion Anderson and others sang that day, but the song that brought tears to my eyes was when everyone sang “We Shall Overcome,” which became the theme song of the civil rights movement.

President Lyndon Johnson quoted those words at the close of his speech on passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965.

When the Rev. King began to speak at the March on Washington, there was a silence over the great throng. His words rang out, and everyone was eager to hear what he said. His words were bigger than life. It was as though this man had been chosen for this moment in history. I shall never forget that day nor the man who gave so much, even his life, for “Our Country.”


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