'The most exciting times in my life'
PRINCESS ANNE, MD - (Aug. 30, 2013) - “Fingertips” by Little Stevie Wonder topped the Billboard charts the last week of August 1963, stamps sold for a nickel and “The Great Escape” was the must-see movie.
Upwards of a quarter million people gathered in the nation’s capital 50 years ago this week to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In the crowd that day were those with University of Maryland Eastern Shore ties.
Among them were Dr. David Johnson Jr., Pat Kiah and her best friend, Ann Sullivan.
Sullivan and Kiah were teenagers whose fathers, T. Waldo Kiah and James Sullivan, were Maryland State College faculty colleagues.
“Mr. Kiah took us to Constitution Avenue, where we joined a stream of people that seemed to be absolutely endless,” Sullivan said. “I don't think we had ever seen so many people of color in one place.”
“Almost everyone carried a sign that let the world know what they stood for, and who they represented,” she said.
Sullivan and the Kiahs were too far from the Lincoln Memorial to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have A Dream” speech, but saw it later that day on TV.
“We were in awe of what we had just heard,” Sullivan said. “I thought, ‘no wonder the people were cheering and applauding so loudly’."
Kiah, now 65, traveled cross country to attend this week’s 50th anniversary celebration. “The march was serendipitous and heart-warming,” Kiah said. “I’m so glad I made the trip. Ann and I spent the day together once again, marching and listening to speeches.”
Dr. Kathryn Barrett-Gaines also attended the 2013 gathering and was inspired to pen an essay reflecting on her experience. It read, in part:
photo courtesy of Dr. Kathryn Barrett-Gaines
“As a professor … I prepare students for freedom by teaching critical reading, analytical writing, gathering evidence, critically thinking, questioning, and doubting.”
“Learning about history creates compassionate people,” she wrote. “Passing on these tools is my way of opening doors to the struggle for freedom.”
“I am free to go to the Mall for the Let Freedom Ring March. I am free to be challenged and to challenge others. I am free to publish my thoughts, because I have a job that frees my mind and body.”
“I am free to engage in the wondrous struggle for freedom, the struggle for what to believe. I can give no greater gift to a student,” she wrote.
* * *
The 1963 Washington march called to Dr. Johnson, also a UMES professor, because he was a sit-in demonstrator while a student at North Carolina A&T State University during the civil rights movement.
“I wanted to be a part of it. I knew it was going to be a history-making day,” Johnson told The Daily Times, “It was one of the most exciting times in my life.”
Bill Jones, a UMES alumnus and Kiah family friend, did not attend the 1963 march, but heard King speak earlier that summer. He was in Detroit when he participated in a June 23 event where King invoked his “I have a dream …” mantra.
“Of course, (it) wasn’t ‘historic’ to me at the time…,” Jones said. There were, “just far, far more people than this Somerset County kid (who was 12 at the time) had ever seen gathered in one place.”
* * *
photo by John F. deHuarte
Christina deHuarte, a receptionist in UMES’ financial aid office, treasures a collection of black and white photos her father took on Aug. 28, 1963.
“People need to remember that it was not just one particular race or a particular religion that marched, but people from all races, religions … and ethnic backgrounds banding together to show their support for the cause of equality in a peaceful, unified way,” deHuarte said.
“As I think of all the students I have greeted in the past three years … I can’t help but think of the speech (Dr.) King gave that day,” she said.
She describes UMES today as “a place where people of all colors, races, religions and ethnic backgrounds have found a way to work together, eat together, study together and live together in peace and equality in our little corner of the world.”
Bill Robinson, director, public relations, (410) 621-2355