Civil Rights Legends in Atlanta State Capitol

August 30, 2012 at 4:58 pm (Atlanta, Civil Rights) (, , , , , , , )

The gathering at the State Capitol building in Atlanta

To honor the August 28, 1963 March on Washington and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, two civil rights icons spoke on the civil rights movement Tuesday in the state capitol in Atlanta.

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, who helped Dr. King establish the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and U. S. Congressman John Lewis, former head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (1963-66), spoke about that day 49 years ago when they weren’t sure who would show up for the March, and then were overwhelmed by the enormous crowds.

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery

Rev. Lowery said it was the first time the civil rights movement became a truly national movement, instead of being strictly Southern.   “This was the first time that white folks had participated in the movement in vast numbers,” he said.  Reminiscing about the March and how it would play out, he said, “We were scared.  We were nervous.”

U. S. Congressman John Lewis

John Lewis was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders (seven whites, six blacks) who challenged segregation in Southern bus terminals served by interstate travel.  For six months more than 400 Freedom Riders endured beatings and imprisonment, and finally the Kennedy administration acted to end segregation in bus terminals enforced by generations of tradition.  He said the March organizers anticipated “maybe 75,000 or so” people, but around a quarter million people showed up.  Lewis thinks even that number was low.  (See video below).

Lowery and Lewis were asked questions by M. Alexis Scott, publisher of the Atlanta Daily World, Atlanta’s oldest continuously published black newspaper (since 1928).

Elder Bernice King, daughter of Dr. King, also spoke.  She was five years old when her father was assassinated, and is CEO of The King Center for Nonviolent Social Change and a leader in teaching nonviolent training.

Elder Bernice King

Other participants:

The Rev. Willie Bolden, pastor of Atlanta’s Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, and inductee into the 2012 International Civil Rights Walk of Fame sponsored by the Trumpet Awards Foundation

Organ player

Georgia State Senator Emanuel Jones, giving the welcome

Life Magazine cover

The program concluded with leaders of the Georgia state black caucus and the participants singing “We Shall Overcome.”

Video clips

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