theGrio users weigh in on 1963 March on Washington

theGRIO REPORT - We asked users that question and more in an exclusive survey, and their poignant and candid responses resonate with the passions of today’s events...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a watershed event that impacted the direction of the Civil Rights movement in the United States.

But now, 50 years later, do you feel as though it has made a difference in your life?

We asked users that question and more in an exclusive survey, and their poignant and candid responses resonate with the passions of today’s events.

The 230 people who responded to our survey ranged from ages 20 to 78, with the average being 54 years old.

Thirteen of our respondents actually attended the march in 1963. Seventy said they would be attending the commemorative events this month in D.C.

Among the reasons some of our respondents could not make the march:

  • Previous family commitments such as weddings and reunions
  • Inhibiting personal finances
  • Transportation arrangements (bus or carpool)
  • Disabled and mobility would be an issue
  • They would be represented by younger family members who are attending

There was even a respondent who told us that they thought it would be more beneficial to make an in-kind cash donation to the NAACP.

Ninety-three percent of our survey respondents told us that they would be watching the commemoration events online or on TV.

When asked “Did a relative or someone close to you attend the march 50 years ago?” we got some very moving responses:

    • A woman from Austin, TX told us her priest attended the march as a young seminary student. The priest was overwhelmed by the crowds, welcomed and loved. We are told that it was a life-changing event for the priest, who had switched denominations as a result of that experience “to stand with those whose rights were trampled.”
    • A respondent from Damascus, PA was at the march in 1963 with her father. She said her dad was a veteran who told her stories about what he had to endure in the military and later as a New York City transit policeman during the Jim Crow era. She says the stories and the experiences have stayed with her throughout her life. As she put it: “My head is bloodied, but unbowed.”
    • A 64-year-old woman from Menifee, CA shared the story of Ms. May Patterson, who attended the march through the benefit of her employer who paid her way to go. But as a personal note, she also added that her family was deeply involved in the civil rights movement. Her dad fought for blacks to join the postal workers’ union.  These efforts were met with violent resistance. A cross was burned on her lawn, her aunt’s house was blown off the foundations and her dad’s cousin was shot in the head.
    • A woman from Columbus, OH told us that all of her mother’s five brothers were involved in the Civil Rights Movement and this is how she became involved. She moved to Washington, D.C. shortly after attending a year and a half at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. She told us that she had won a scholarship but her passion for the civil rights movement was so great, she gave up the scholarship.  She told us how her mother became very angry at her for this. “I did return to complete [my] Masters’ Degree 20 years later,” she said. She told us that her mother lived to see her accomplish a dual Bachelors of Science degree before she died.  She went on tell us that the march 50 years ago and the turbulence surrounding the civil rights of that era have definitely affected her impressions of civil rights issues of today. She told theGrio that she knows we still have a lot of work to do.