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Capturing extraordinary narratives of ordinary Civil Rights participants
Sunday, March 31, 2013
More than 250,000 people marched on the Mall and congregated around the Lincoln Memorial on that hot August day in 1963. Men and women, boy and girls of every race, creed and religion showed up to hear the voices of civil rights leaders—especially the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose speech "shook up America."
Inside the walls of the Metropolitan AME Church, we interviewed more than a dozen of the March on Washington participants. A pair of sisters came from Baltimore to march on behalf of their youth group, fathers went to the Mall to inspire their children, and activists were reignited by the March to fight for justice and equality that day.
We learned from the interviewees’ stories that, in their eyes, they were among a group of multiracial individuals who showed their solidarity for the oppression felt by many African Americans in the ’60s. For a few people, it wasn’t until participating in the March and fraternizing with others on the Mall that they realized the true hardships and segregation faced by many of their brothers and sisters, especially in the South. Their stories illuminated that this was a fight for the majority; for the solidarity and unification that was already being built during this time. It was a movement to stop the oppressive minority from advocating messages to keep society separate and unequal rose to the top.
Most importantly, these interviewees illuminated the strength of intergenerational movements, and the dialogue they open between all of us. This project, which is intergenerational in its nature, could not have been more exemplary of that. We’re recreating history by capturing the untold stories of ordinary people who came together one day, politically activated by a call for justice, freedom, jobs, and equality. The March signified the opening of a dialogue to bring about societal change. Today, we still need to fight for that change—just because we have an African-American president doesn’t mean the work is done. Our media March on Washington showed us the importance and value of having intergenerational conversations, the solidarity it creates, and the critical need to learn from our past in order to build future movements for justice.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
From the Emancipation Proclamation through the March on Washington, the exhibit walls retold us of the 100-year struggle for freedom and equality. Artifacts ranged from Abraham Lincoln’s top hat and early poll tax slips that barred many African-Americans from voting, to organizing handbooks with slogans calling for change “NOW” and multilingual banners demanding justice for workers, LGBT rights, and women.
Despite the ‘Changing America’ that captured our attention and motivated us to look deeper into the stories represented in the National Museum of American History, we all recognized how some things still haven’t changed. During a reenactment of the Woolworth's lunch counter sit-in in Greensboro, N.C., the crowd recognized the importance of “separate is not equal” during that historic moment. But the struggle is ongoing for equality across lines of race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, age and ableism.
As we prepare for interviews with local D.C. residents who participated in the 1963 March on Washington, we must keep in mind that much of the real history has yet to be told. As journalists, we must use our skills and critical understanding of the textbook-ready version of the civil rights era to fill in the gaps. The stories we will hear and record today will shed light on the historical relevancy of freedom, justice and equality, and hopefully reinforce our understanding of how these concepts have evolved.
Monday, March 25, 2013
After a semester of planning for our service trip, the Park Scholars will finally be marching onto Washington—with cameras in hand.
From March 28-31, thirteen of us will be traveling to the nation's Capitol with journalism Professor James Rada to film segments of a documentary about the March on Washington. We'll visit the Metropolitan AME Church to interview local D.C. residents who participated in the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. These marchers were once college students themselves, and this service trip provides an opportunity to pass on the message of civil rights from one generation to another.
Outside of the interviews, we're making stops at other locations relevant to the Civil Rights Movement, including the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Civil Rights exhibit at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
Check back on Thursday for updates from our travels and first day report-backs.