Ahead of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s iconic speech, Yahoo asked Americans who remember the speech to share their recollections and what it meant to them.
FIRST PERSON | I was a 21-year-old student at the University of Tampa, entering my sophomore year, when I was inspired by the march of Dr. Martin Luther King and his supporters, seeking jobs and freedom for all, on August 28, 1963.
There are many reasons why, to this day, I hold Dr. King in high esteem.
For one, coming from the wonderfully diverse community of Ithaca, New York, the home of both Cornell University and Ithaca College, and the advanced public and private schools there, I had lived for 20 years in a place where all types of persons surrounded me and were loved and respected.
Then, upon coming to the Bible Belt of Florida, I was appalled at how African Americans were treated. There was irony in the fact that so many people attended their places of worship, but treated so many persons not as equals.
I just could not believe what I was seeing and experiencing. Of course, I had read about it all, but walking right into some of it was astounding and extremely stressful and abhorrent to my nature.
One of the first examples was the first time I went to take a drink at a downtown water fountain. I was with my girlfriend, Dorinda Garcia (now my wife), and happened to take a drink from one of the fountains in the courthouse, where two were side by side. I looked up and was stunned to see on the wall that one was labeled ‘WHITES’ and one was labeled ‘COLOREDS.’ I was most happy to have drunk from the ‘coloreds’ one as a white, Caucasian male. Just doing so made a statement in support of them.
To my dismay, there were two other rather shocking things. One was that African Americans, whom we called “negroes” at the time, had to sit in the back of the buses.
Another really horrendous thing for me to witness as a young man growing up loving all persons, was riding on our beautiful Courtney Campbell Causeway from Tampa to Clearwater, and, at one point, coming to a sign designating that the end of the causeway was for the ‘coloreds.’
I am happy to add that all of those things have changed for the better.
We have come far from that day when I saw the march on television and was joyful that such an important event that was possibly going to turn into violence, was very peaceful and important to American history.
My opinion is that we have made much progress, albeit very slow, but we arriving at his dream of peace, jobs, and rights and freedom for all persons.