2 women share historic March on Washington bond
Carol Carter-Walker and Judith Claire didn’t know each other 50 years ago when both attended the historic March on Washington.
Claire, a Michigan native who grew up on a farm, had just returned from serving in the Peace Corps in the Philippines. Carter-Walker grew up in segregated Washington, D.C. and at the time was starting a job at a consulting firm in New York City.
“I heard on the ‘Voice of America’ radio show at night I’d listen to and we got old English Life and Look magazines,” Claire said of how she stayed aware of what was happening back home. “I was aware of the violence and the police dogs and the hosing before I left, but I just couldn’t really imagine what that was like and I thought, ‘Why are we sitting over here in the Peace Corps when we have this huge problem at home?'”
She returned home to Michigan in April of 1963. A teaching internship brought her to D.C. a few months later, one day before the march.
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Carter-Walker kept waffling on whether or not to attend. She knew the march’s importance, but some press coverage at the time warned there would be violence.
“I finally said to myself, ‘If other people can make sacrifices to be there, then I need to rise to the occasion,'” Carter-Walker said. “I know friends of mine back then who made the opposite decision and they tell me they regret it.”
Both Claire and Carter-Walker are in their 70s now and met each other for theGrio.com’s interview at Claire’s home. The two found out they’re both members of Unitarian churches and have mutual friends throughout the D.C. area. It was like the two had known each other for years.
“I think it was the first time that I remember seeing a crowd, an integrated crowd of people,” Carter-Walker said of her march memories. “I remember that there weren’t clumps of whites and clumps of blacks and clumps of men and clumps of women – everyone was walking together.”
Claire, 74, said she remembered massive crowds all dressed like “they were going to church.” The event showed her that America was capable of being better.
“Well, the march certainly gave me hope,” Claire said. “That we can do better and struggle as we do, we have to be open and hopeful and try to learn from each other.”
Carter-Walker, who is retired and spends her time volunteering for social justice causes at her church, still carries with her valuable lessons from the ’63 march.
“I realize that I have to put my body out there,” Carter-Walker said. “I can’t just sit in the house and watch TV and say ‘Aint it awful?’ or write checks.”
Claire and Carter-Walker exchanged numbers after the interview ended.
They will attend Wednesday’s ‘Let Freedom Ring’ ceremony together. It’s a reunion 50 years in the making.