Exhibit honors 1963 civil rights march

Civil rights era luminaries helped cut the ribbon Friday on a Marvin Center exhibit that marks the 35th anniversary of the March on Washington.

The exhibit, “Looking Back-Moving Forward: The March on Washington 35 Years Later,” features personal letters, maps and programs from the march donated to GW by Walter Fauntroy, coordinator of the 1963 march and a former member of Congress.

Fauntroy, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, entertainer and activist Dick Gregory, GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and University Librarian Jack Siggins attended the opening ceremony in the Marvin Center Ballroom.

The keynote speech was given by Andrew Young, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, congressman, mayor of Atlanta, vice president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and top aide to Martin Luther King Jr.

Young recounted registering voters and fighting for service at “whites only” restaurants in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963. He also spoke of his involvement in the civil rights movement at a time when police dogs attacked protesters and firemen blasted marchers with hoses.

“You had a political movement in Washington being inspired and empowered by a spiritual movement in the South,” he said.

Young said King’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech, attended by 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial, outlined the dreams of people of all colors in only 19 minutes.

“(King’s speech) was a clarion call for a human rights movement that has gone all around the world,” he said.

“The March defined the resolution of the problem without violence. It said that we are one with the American dream. Building a global community where inalienable rights are respected was the aim of those dreams,” Young said.

Fauntroy served as the director of the Washington bureau of the SCLC and, while serving as a congressman, was arrested for protesting apartheid at the South African embassy.

Friday, he offered his recollections of the impact of the summer of 1963 on society.

“The message is, `what we have gained from our fathers, we must earn for ourselves,’ ” Fauntroy said. “We owe (the demonstrators) a great debt of gratitude.”

“We know that though we’ve come a long, long way, we still have a long way to go,” Young said.

Barry briefly told the crowd about his involvement with King and the civil rights movement and then compared the struggle to the District’s troubled history with home rule and voting rights.

“We come 35 years later and we’re still not free,” he said. “The Congress has disrespected us, but we’re still determined to get our freedom here in Washington.”

“We can, we will, we must overcome,” Fauntroy said.

The exhibit, in the Colonnade Gallery on the Marvin Center’s third floor, is open daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. until Oct. 28.

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