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Anniversary of Historic March Conjures Memories

Participants in Original Event Reflect on Civil Rights Movement, King

Stacy M. Brown | 8/20/2013, 12:45 p.m.

Ultimately, the landmark event became a key moment in the struggle for civil rights in America. The march famously culminated with King’s, “I Have a Dream,” speech, a spirited call for racial justice and equality.

To help mark the 50th anniversary of the occasion, scores of people are planning to travel to the Nation’s Capital from various cities and states, including individuals who took part in the original march.

Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League in New York said he expects crowds at the anniversary remembrance to rival that of the original march, particularly given recent legislation striking down the Voting Rights Act.

“There were 250,000 people in 1963 who attended the march,” Morial said. “It remains to be seen this time, but these recent events have been an encouragement for more people to attend.”

Five civil rights groups took part in the original march, but Morial promises many more will be in the District this year, including the National Council of Churches in New York and the National Park Service in Northwest Washington, D.C.

Helping to shape the agenda for the anniversary of the march is Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, which has 40 chapters across the country. New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Comptroller Bill de Blasio, and another Big Apple mayoral hopeful, Bill Thompson, are each seeking Sharpton’s endorsement and have agreed to join the minister in Washington, D.C. for the event.

Additionally, The White House has announced that President Barack Obama will deliver remarks on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Arnold Krupat, a retired musician, also will be counted among those visiting the District to mark the historic occasion.

Krupat, 71, recalled boarding a bus at Union Square in New York 50 years ago with union organizers, civil rights and peace activists.

“I remember I was just 21, coming to Washington and going past these poor black neighborhoods with people on their porches cheering. That produced such an unbelievable feeling,” he said.

“As we got off the bus, an older black man who had gotten off another bus came up to me and with a big smile asked if I had a match. I apologized and told him that I didn’t smoke. He hugged me, smiled and said, ‘Bless you, son.’”

Krupat said he remembered listening to Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary sing on that monumental day. “And, I heard a black preacher named King, a name I didn’t recognize, say, ‘I have a dream.’ On the way back to New York, I was full of great memories.”

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