Alumni Memories About the March

The March on Washington struck a chord with so many JCSU students, past, present and future, and sticks out in their memories. 

Here are a few of the memories about that great day that our alumni chose to share with us. 

Talmadge Fair (Class of 1961)

Talmadge FairI wish I could have been there. I was one of the student leaders of the sit-ins along with Charles Jones and Brummit Delaney.

In May of 1963, I had just finished graduate school and had no job and no money. I had to stay home so I watched the march with my mother.

What a glorious experience to be able to witness such an unforgettable moment with the greatest person in my life.

James Daughtridge (Class of 1972)

James DaughtridgeI was 13 years old at the time and in the eighth grade. I saw the march on television, and I was in awe of the number of participants and speakers on the platform. I had read about them and knew of their participation in the civil rights struggle.

I remember the march as a struggle against the social conditions I had lived under at the time, including  segregated schools and public accommodations.

Seeing this momentous event on television made me aware that I, as a young Black person was missing much in life: equal opportunities to go to integrated theatres, carnivals, schools. But it gave me a view that better days might lie ahead if members of my age group and our elders continued to agitate for social change.

Dorothy Counts-Scoggins (Class of 1964)

Dorothy Counts-ScogginsI did not attend the march as I was returning to Charlotte from working in New York all summer.

I did watch it on television and was chilled to see that so many people of all races joined together to hear Dr. King and fight for a cause that was long overdue. Also, I am aware that some of my classmates joined in that cause.

Dr. King was such a powerful man and could move mountains. It saddens me now that all the work that he and others did has taken a back seat, and we are not moving forward after 50 years.

I still have the "Dream" for my children and grandchildren.

Dorothy Counts-Scoggins was the first African American to attend the all-white Harding High School. There she braved crowds of jeering protestors who swore and spit at her and threw things at her as she walked through the door. School officials and police told her parents that they could not secure her safety and she was sent to live with family in Philadelphia and attend an integrated school. She later moved back to the Queen City and furthered her education at Johnson C. Smith. 

She was the subject of a famous photograph, snapped by "Charlotte Observer" photographer Don Sturkey, that showed her braving crowds of protestors. She has also related her story to various media including the August 2010 "Charlotte Magazine."

William C. Steele (Class of 1965)

I watched the march on the old black and white television in the Carter Hall lounge on campus. It was one of the most moving moments of my life.

It struck home because we at Smith had the opportunity to meet many of the Freedom Riders traveling south during the late spring and early summer when they came through Charlotte.

Mrs. Jones, my English professor at Smith, had a son, Charlie Jones, who was very active in the movement. The March on Washington will live with me forever.

My children are now 35 and 40 years old, and I constantly remind them of the effect that the march had on my life.

Cynthia Hodges-Garrett (Class of 1962)

I did not go to the march. I spent my whole day watching it on television.

My favorite quote was "I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

My faith has led me to believe it is still possible.

Henry Simmons (Class of 1962)

First of all, in 1960 I participated in the sit-in demonstrations that I appreciate even until this day. The students at JCSU were very active in that movement.

Today, I have no regrets because we made a difference. We paid a price, but the benefits gained are nice.

I did not physically attend the March on Washington. However, I was there in spirit with my eyes glued to the TV every chance I got. There was a feeling of fear and a feeling of pride.

I had never seen so many people of different races, colors and religions gathered in one place participating in one of the greatest events in this country's history.

There were many risks associated with the march, but the benefits we are enjoying today outweighed the risks.

Parran Foster (Class of 1972)

Parran FosterI was 13 years old and lived in Green-Ridge, an all-white community in Scranton, Penn. I watched the march that afternoon in front of my childhood friend, Billy Young's, television with his family. Mr. and Mrs. Young explained to us the significance of the event.

The Youngs, who were white, expressed their hope that the issues related to segregation would be abandoned and that equal treatment under the law should be the law of the land.

I was mesmerized by Dr. King's words, and I had never seen so many Black folks assembled anywhere before. At that time, we may have seen a black person on TV as seldom as once a week.

My parents were members of a very small local chapter of the NAACP and discussed the event with me and my siblings as well.

Leonard and Veronica Bethel (Class of 1964)

In 1962-63, Veronica (an undergraduate student), and I (a JCSU theological student), were actively involved in protest activities in Charlotte and did not travel to Washington for the march.

Veronica protested with a few other students at the Belk store because Belk refused to allow Black women to try on hats. She did it anyway and was escorted out of the store.

On the way to preach at a Black Presbyterian church in Statesville, N.C., I sat in the "white only" section of a bus and was confronted by a policeman. I claimed I couldn’t read, so I didn’t understand the sign. Therefore, they let the “stupid boy” stay seated, and I rode the entire trip at the front of the bus. On the way home, I waited purposefully for the same exact bus on which I had arrived. The bus driver and policeman remembered me as the boy who couldn’t read and let me sit in the front again.

The Charlotte Observer articles below are about an injured JCSU football player who died after being denied care at a segregated hospital in Charlotte and the protests that followed. Veronica and I met at this protest. We were side-by-side peacefully protesting in a line when she was knocked down by a white man (possibly a KKK member). I went to retaliate against him and was escorted back to campus. Later that week, Veronica came up to me in the cafeteria to thank me, but she also let me know I could have been hurt. We started dating from then on.

Our activism continued. I was forced out of a segregated restaurant with a shotgun by the owner for sitting at the counter. Veronica and I were escorted out of a dentist’s waiting room for sitting in the "white only" section. We did not have time to make it to Washington, D.C. for the big march. There was enough to do in Charlotte.

We are both retired now. Veronica was awarded "Professor Emeritus" by the Board of Trustees at Raritan Valley Community College in New Jersey, and I was awarded "Professor Emeritus" by the President and Board of Governors at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Leonard and Veronica Bethel also provided these articles from The Charlotte Observer about the hospital protest:

The Charlotte Observer article - Grid Player Injury Kills Player at JC Smith

Photo from The Charlotte Observer story - Unidentified Man Tears Signs of Negro Pickets at Hospital

Article from The Charlotte Observer - Unidentified Man Tears Signs of Negro Pickets At Hospital

Part 2 of story from The Charlotte Observer - Unidentified Man Tears Signs of Negro Pickets at Hospital 

Elloree Erwin (Class of 1963)

I didn't make the march. I was probably looking for a job! It was as hard back then as it is now to find work.

I do remember many people thinking that there would be violence at the march. I was happy that the event was peaceful.

This was truly a historic and changing time. We've come so far since then, but we have forgotten to educate our youth. 

Dr. King would be very disappointed at our neglect in improving the plight of so many of our youth. We should insist that our children attend and graduate from high school.

We are allowing too many of our youngsters to become parents when they are just kids themselves and unable to give their children a decent home, education or good quality of life.

Dr. King would be very disappointed that we don't insist that our young people take advantage of every educational opportunity.

After all, education is a sum total of your experiences. 

Howard W. Ways (Class of 1963)

I remember the March on Washington Rev. King's speech. The March on Washington had been building for some time, and the event was the culmination of the frustration of all minorities.

Unfortunately, I could not go to Washington for this event, but the pride I felt was outstanding. It seems that Black people had a togetherness that is not duplicated in today's world.

I personally feel that we as Black people need to return to that closeness of the sixties instead of killing one another!

James Ewers (Class of 1970)

Growing up in Winston-Salem, N.C., I did participate in marches and protests during this period.  I vividly remember marching and protesting in front of the K&W Cafeteria because people who looked like me could not eat there.

Dr. King's "I Have A Dream" speech was the operation that America needed on its heart and soul. The speech gave those of us who were marginalized, hope and inspiration. I still play Dr. King's speech to this day because of its impact upon the social justice fabric of this country.

While I was not there in 1963, our television set cried out to us as we watched him.

I was privileged to have met Dr. King prior to his assassination. His spirit lives through us as we continue to stay on the walk for justice and fair treatment.

Joann Standifer (Class of 1962)

I was not in the country when the March on Washington occurred. I was a junior studying in Japan.

The Japanese were interested in what was happening and were shocked that I had a friendship with a white female from Concord, N.C. This was an unusual relationship considering what was happening in the lower 48 states. It was the white female student's first opportunity to get to know an African American. This unique relationship made the Japanese news.

It was a relationship that posed many questions that we discussed, (two from the South, one Black and another white who lived in very close proximity to each other's homes). We would not have met had we both remained in our own hometowns.  

When we returned to the United States, she visited me with tears in her eyes stating that her parents would not allow her to continue our friendship.

We were both challenged with what was happening in the United States. I think it was difficult for my white friend to be in this situation. We were asked many questions. I did what I could do. I prayed for God's care and His peace to prevail. 

Hannah Allen-Miller (Class of 1962)

I was at home in Jakin, Ga., where I watched the entire march on TV. My parents and younger siblings watched also.

My memory from Smith was the Saturday when many of us went downtown and marched around the counter at Kresge or Woolworth, whatever was in Charlotte where Blacks were not served. Two of our Smithites (one was called Cookie) sat at the counter, ordered and were served because they thought they were the opposite color.

Once they were served, we stopped marching and chatted with them. What facial expressions did we see!!!

Dr. Ernie Wade (Class of 1961)

I remember vividly that I came home, turned on the TV and intended to go back to my car to retrieve something. However, Dr. King was just beginning to speak. I was immediately captured by his words. I sat down, leaving the car door open for the duration of his speech. The speech launched me on a lifelong journey of reading his speeches and studying all aspects of the Civil Rights Movement. As a result of my study, I wrote a play, "Words from the Trail" about the trials and triumphs of life on the road to freedom.

In the play I write a letter to Dr. King that reads:

Dear Martin,

I stand here today before a group of people, many of whom were yet unborn when you gave your speech at the March on Washington in August 1963. Many, fortunately, have never experienced directly the bitter taste of segregation and discrimination. Many, unfortunately, believe that the struggle is over.

It was hot that August day, Martin, so hot that some said that the sun seemed to set them on fire. But many of us were already on fire. On fire for the riches of freedom, on fire for the security of justice, on fire for the benefit of equal opportunity, many of us have been on fire for a very long time.

We miss you, Martin, we miss your leadership and your direction. You, Martin, were the glue that kept so many of us, with different opinions, focused on the real problem, that being America's unwillingness to grant full citizenship to her poor and her people of color.

Martin, you were a new prophet declaring that the promises of old prophets must be kept. You were a new Amos when you declared, "let justice roll down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."

Martin, it is hard to believe that it has been 45 years since you were snatched from our presence; so sudden, so dramatic, so devastating. You moved a nation to take another look at how it was treating the poor and her people of color. Your way was the right way. But there are those who say that you cannot use 1960’s tactics to solve 2013's problems. Some of us beg to differ. Give us that old time enthusiasm, give us that old time commitment, give us that old time spirit. It is good enough for me. It was good enough for you, Martin, it was good enough for Malcolm, it was good enough for Medgar, it will be good enough for you. It was good for Marcus Garvey and Mary McCleod Bethune. It was good for Roy Wilkins, and it will be good enough for you. It moved thousands to march for freedom, marching to set their people free facing harm and abuse and danger, not just for themselves, but for you and for me.

So give me that old time commitment, give me that old time spirit, give me that old time religion, it's good enough for me. Oh it can make you feel like shouting, it can make you feel renewed, it can give you a sense of purpose for the things that you need to do. Can we let those leaders down who have died and gone before us, gone to take their place in glory to receive their just reward? They toiled long here in this vineyard as their leaders had before them, but as they look down here upon us, what is the situation they see? Folks are still divided, getting so little done and not even close to coming together to act as one. Knowing our situation is a bad one, we still wait for someone else to set us free.

Oh, you can’t crawl your way to freedom. You’ve got to stand up if you want to be free. But we can pull it together and make a commitment to unity. If everyone pulls in the same direction, not you for you and me for me. But, when it does come together, there will be something for all to do. You can start by treating your neighbor the way you want them to treat you.