Historic March on Washington remembered by panel at MLK Library - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Historic March on Washington remembered by panel at MLK Library

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(Photo: Bob Barnard / Twitter / @barnardfox5dc) (Photo: Bob Barnard / Twitter / @barnardfox5dc)

The nation's capital is getting ready to host 50th anniversary celebrations of the historic March on Washington.

The major events begin this weekend, but on Tuesday night at a D.C. public library, there was an opportunity to hear from a few of our neighbors who were there that day on August 28, 1963.

"I was busy taking care of people who were falling out from the heat," says Dr. Ella Kelly, who was a 24-year-old D.C. high school history teacher when she attended the march as a Red Cross volunteer. "It was hot."

A quarter of a million people attended the march and rally in the name of justice and equality.

"I don't think mainstream white America understood that the people who were coming here were serious," Dr. Ella told us before an "I was There" symposium at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library downtown. "That they conducted themselves with respect. They had love for their country, but they wanted change."

Dr. Kelly is a retired Howard University administrator.

"I was between the water of the reflecting pool and the first steps (of the Lincoln Memorial)," says Chris Hager, a 68-year-old longtime activist who lives in Falls Church. "And so, considering (there were) a quarter of a million (people there), I was up fairly close."

Hager says he hitchhiked from his home in Ohio to be in Washington 50 years ago. He was 18 years old that day.

"Just the idea that you're in the right place doing the right thing and I've been an activist sort of ever since then," Hager says.

"I was living in Harlem at the time," says A. Peter Bailey, who now lives in the Washington area. "I went to the march for historic reasons."

Like tens of thousands of others, Bailey came by bus from his home in New York City.

"I think the most memorable thing for me was just seeing the crowd,” he says. “Though I went down with great skepticism about anything positive happening, the fact of seeing so many people there really impressed me."

The D.C. public library is now collecting photographs, oral histories, artifacts and memorabilia from that storied day.

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