Native Washingtonian remembers unforgettable March on Washington - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Native Washingtonian remembers unforgettable March on Washington experience 50 years ago

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Valerie Youmans Valerie Youmans

Fifty years ago this week, a quarter of a million people converged on Washington and the National Mall for a first-of-its-kind demonstration for jobs and freedom. The March on Washington helped to inspire passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Washingtonian Valerie Youmans was a little girl -- and was there that historic day.

"I remember it being really hot," Youmans tells us from the campus of Georgetown University. "And I remember it just being a lot of people."

She was 10 years old on August 28, 1963. Youmans went to the march with her mother, grandfather and 16-year-old brother.

"The one thing that I remember is that I wanted to bring my doll," she tells us. "And my brother was adamant that he was not walking with me carrying a doll. So I had to leave my doll at home."

Youmans says she and her family stood along the Reflecting Pool near the Lincoln Memorial that late August day 50 years ago. But she says she couldn't hear the speeches.

That didn't matter. Youmans says she had experienced the evils of racism.

"I remember growing up and seeing the signs for colored and white," she tells us. "Because my mother's from Danville, Virginia, and I remember when we'd go to visit her hometown -- seeing those signs and seeing the water signs. And actually my class at Wilson High School was the first class to integrate Wilson."

That was in 1969.

"I'm 60 years old," she says, "and I remember, vividly, those things."

Youmans is the longtime assistant to the Dean of Admissions at Georgetown University. She says there is still work to be done.

"You just know that certain things that happen are raced-based," she explains, "and you just know it as an African American person. And it's so subtle now, but it's still there."

She remembers fondly the day she joined the March on Washington.

"Being a native Washingtonian, I've witnessed other mass demonstrations in the city over the years, but that one particular -- I'll never forget."

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