by John Reimann
My parents took me to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. I was 17 at the time and the memories will be with me for my lifetime. It was part of what made me what I am today….
I remember the near-rush hour traffic going from New York City and back.
I remember the hundreds of people lining up at the restaurants along the way, waiting to use the bathrooms.
I remember the warmth, the friendly smiles that we all exchanged while we waited. We all knew where each other was going and for what cause.
I remember looking off to the hill behind the restaurant and seeing dozens of men heading up there. I went too. We didn’t want to wait on line!
I remember the massive crowd and the heat that sapped our energy in Washington.
I remember a group of SNCC youth coming marching through that crowd and singing some Civil Rights song.
I also remember the criticisms – largely correct but too one-sided – that Malcolm X made the next day. (This young 17 year old, whose head was filled with idealist ideas, really didn’t understand him at that time.)
Most of all, I remember the speech of John Lewis, who is a totally different man today from the man he was in 1963. I wonder if he remembers that speech! Below is the text of the speech that John Lewis and SNCC activists originally wrote for Lewis to deliver. It made a far greater impression on this 17 year-old (at that time) than did MLK’s famous speech:
We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here. They have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving starvation wages, or no wages at all.
In good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration’s civil rights bill, for it is too little and too late. There’s not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality….
Read more:Remembering March on Washington