On Wednesday The Daily Circuit aired a show marking the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. To prepare, we talked with three local residents who were involved in the events of that day.
Craig Neal was a high school senior in suburban New Jersey. He traveled by bus to Washington for the march.
Mary Treacy was a senior at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. She couldn’t make it to Washington, but she gathered with colleagues in Minneapolis in solidarity with the marchers.
Josie Robinson-Johnson was a mother and community organizer with the Minneapolis Urban League. She was part of the local NAACP delegation that flew to Washington for the march.
As I interviewed these three local residents, it became clear that this one historic event had many different elements.
There was the diverse coalition of religious, ethnic, labor and other groups that came together for a common purpose. Craig Neal joined with a diverse group as he headed to the march by bus.
There were the individuals who traveled to Washington from towns across the country. They have different stories to tell, about preparing, traveling and finally standing in the heat on the edge of the National Mall. Josie Robinson-Johnson spent months planning the trip before she finally arrived there.
There were all the people who couldn’t go, but marched instead on the streets of their own towns to support the crowds in Washington. Mary Treacy was at a conference in Minneapolis on the day of the march.
And there were the speeches and the speechmakers. They offered words that today, half a century later, still frame the way we talk about racial and economic equality.
The public dialogue on race is still evolving today.
And the issues at the heart of the movement are still there – the specific and detailed demands, many of which remain hotly contested.