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March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963: One Participant Remembers

In the account below Edith Lee-Payne recalls the day she was photographed as a 12 year old participant in the March on Washington, and the curious history of that photograph through 2011.

My grandparents, Marie and John Spencer Lee, left Culpeper, Virginia for Washington, D.C. in the early 1900s, where my mother, Dorothy Lee, was born. My mother settled in Detroit, Michigan in 1940, married William Henderson Lee in 1947, and I was born four years later.  Summer vacations were always spent in Washington.  My 1963 summer vacation, however, is forever marked in history and my personal memory, because I was there when the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place on August 28, 1963.  That March, which took place on my 12th birthday, changed me and transformed the nation.  

Dr. Martin Luther KingsI Have a Dream speech is by far the best remembered moment at the March on Washington.  King gave the speech before an audience of 250,000gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial.  With the giant statue ofAbraham Lincoln in the shaded background, Dr. King described a world heenvisioned as dominated by love, freedom, and justice  

I heard the speech that day but I also heard one similar two months before in Detroit.  On June 23, 1963, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rev. C. L. Franklin (Aretha Franklin’s father) led a march of over 100,000 people down Woodward Avenue to Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit.  Dr. King encouraged us to join him and others in Washington, D.C. on August 28 for a peaceful demonstration that he believed would help bring attentionto the injustices of segregation throughout the south. He reminded us “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Convinced by Dr.King’s rousing discourse and other reasons I later learned, my mother scheduled our annual summer vacation so we could attend the March on Washington while celebrating my 12th birthday.

Both in Detroit and Washington, Dr. King used the refrain “I have a Dream.”  Detroiters still contend the “I Have a Dream” speech made

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