Alumni Memories from Washington

JCSU alumni were active participants in the Civil Rights Movement and many of them took part in the March on Washington 50 years ago. 

Here are some of their memories:

Dr. Clarence R. W. Wade (Class of 1948)

The March on Washington was scheduled for August 28, 1963. I submitted my leave request at the National Bureau of Standards, where I worked as a chemist.

Charles R. W. Wade at the March on WashingtonWhen the day arrived, my wife took me close to the Mall as authorized. The area was blocked off, with Metropolitan Police and National Guard at every corner. As I got out of the car, the announcer for NBC was talking about the potential for violence  and the readiness of the security to keep things under control.

When I got near the Washington Monument, there already was an ocean of people. Buses were still arriving with more people. I joined a friend, and we walked to the Lincoln Memorial and found a good spot in the shade of the monument, just down from the platform.

We heard the speakers, civil rights leaders, priests, rabbis and a litany of others, all mixed in with great spirituals. It was almost over, and my friend said to me, "I feel like something is going to happen." Nothing did. 

Then A. Phillip Randolph, like an afterthought, introduced Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who had led a successful bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, to say a few words.

My friend looked at me and for a few moments, King said very little, but then collected himself.

Clarence R. W. Wade at the Lincoln Memorial.He belted out "I HAVE A DREAM...." The crowd hushed. And then I knew what my friend had been feeling. We looked at each other and could not hold back the tears. 

We left there on a high, not like you get with a promotion, a graduation, or at a wedding.

We knew as well as the world now knew, the March on Washington had been ordained by God and that we had been privileged to participate in a once-in-a-lifetime successful event.

Barbara Ferguson Kamara (Class of 1963)

Barbara Ferguson KamaraI graduated from JCSU in May 1963, and I traveled to Syracuse University for Peace Corps training in July. I had just completed my ten weeks of Peace Corps training to go to Liberia the week of the march. On the way back to North Carolina from New York, I stopped in Washington just to be a part of the march.

This was important to me because I had spent four years at JCSU actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement. I had no idea that this would be such an historic event, this March on Washington. I felt love from everyone in the enormous crowd and my heart raced as I heard the various speakers.

I pondered: Where did all of these people come from? We should be able to totally change this country with this large crowd and energy.

On August 24, 2013, I will participate again and I feel compelled to say to everyone: you can't afford not to be there because although there has been a lot of change, we face some of the same injustices today as we did in 1963.

She also spoke to us after attending the 50th anniversary event:


Barbara spoke to Charlotte, NC NBC affiliate WCNC-TV about her experiences in the original March on Washington. You can see that story at: http://www.wcnc.com/home/Women-reflect-on-their-contribution-to-MLKs-dream-50-years-ago-221112611.html

Barbara also spoke to us about what life was like at JCSU when she attended before Charlotte was integrated: 

She also shared her thoughts on how JCSU helped her in the struggle: 

Charles Jones (Class of 1958)

Charles JonesI was at Howard University School of Law and marched with a group of people – some of whom I knew. I was just astonished at the number of people who were coming out to be a part of the march. I started working with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as a founding member in 1960. We were still very much a part of the civil rights activities involved in the March on Washington.

John Lewis, who I’ve known since 1960, was a member of the Freedom Riders. He was also a part of the discussions with Dr. King about what should be included as part of Dr. King’s speech. The primary concern we had was what we would say to President (John F.) Kennedy. We were concerned there would not be a clear statement to the administration that this assembly of 250,000 people was demanding action on the Public Accommodations Act* and on the Voting Rights Act that were before Congress.

Martin [i.e. Dr. King] was a little hesitant to challenge the Kennedys, but John Lewis threatened to speak if Martin didn’t. At the last minute, Martin agreed and challenged the administration to enact in Congress the Public Accommodations and Voting Rights acts. The Public Accommodations and Voting Rights acts passed Congress with pressure from Vice President (Lyndon B.) Johnson.

As I stood there, 10 to 15 rows from Martin and the group, I was awed. I had goose bumps. He went into the “I Have A Dream” speech. Martin was one of the most articulate persons on the planet. I thanked God that I was a part of the march and walked back to Howard University School of Law.

I’m so blessed at this point in my life being authenticated by sit-ins at JCSU, participating as one of the Freedom Riders, spending 30 days on a chain gang in Rock Hill, S.C., being jailed in Montgomery, Ala., and then in Albany, Ga., and overall helping to organize the Civil Rights Movement.

Charles Jones was a key figure of the Charlotte Civil Rights Movement and told his story in "Charlotte Magazine," "The Charlotte Post," and other media. His blog can be found on his website http://josephcharlesjones.squarespace.com/.


* Public Accommodations Act: All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, and privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.


Charles Jones shared his thoughts with our staff:

Charles Jones also provided this news clipping from "The Charlotte Observer" that is a retrospective about the sit-in movement in the Queen City (below).

Clipping from

Obie Patterson (Class of 1965)

Obie PattersonI was there for the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. At the time I was a junior attending JCSU. I remember quite vividly working a summer job with the Hot Shoppes company.

The company supervisor on duty made it clear that he expected all employees to report to work on time, which simply meant that I would not be able to attend the march. However, I decided that job or no job, I was going to attend the march. And I did.

Was I fearful that I would not have a summer job the next year? The answer was yes, especially since summer job monies usually paid spring semester tuition.

I can't remember why I wore a suit to the march, given the summer heat, but I did. I remember this because I reported to work late and had a Dr. King button on my suit jacket. I carefully hung my jacket with pride on full display for all to see.

My supervisor was the first to come into the room. He never said one word about the march or disciplined me in any way. In fact, he turned out to be a true friend, giving me extra time off with pay, a job the next summer, and left me in charge when he had to be away for several hours.

I often think how losing my job could have been a major blow given that I was a married man with a daughter, struggling to get through college. I needed that job, but I also needed to stand my ground and attend that march! I am so glad I did.

(JCSU Trustee)

Madge Lawing-Hopkins (Class of 1966)

I was spending the summer in Brooklyn, New York, working at my uncle's restaurant, McDonald's Dining Room. My uncle called me and my cousin Brenda to his office to talk with him. He told us he could not go to Washington for the March, so Brenda and I had to go.

That was a surprise because he said we could ride down with Frank, who was my cousin Brenda's boyfriend who attended North Carolina College at Durham.

We left the night before the March. We got to our hotel rooms around midnight. We were up early the next morning to stake out our route and joined the march.

I remember the speeches and the singers — especially Harry Belefonte. I was awed by Dr. King's speech. I felt proud and responsible. The event gave me, a college student from the South, hope for a bright future.

Rita Mickey (Class of 1979)

I remember that I was 10 years old. I really didn't understand a lot about what was going on then other than all the adults were talking about the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I remember there was a man named Mr. Bernard in the community who was a member of the NAACP, and he wanted all of the children in the neighborhood to march with him and their parents from Alexandria, Virginia to Washington.

I remember walking across the 14th Street bridge and seeing more and more people joining as we marched toward the Washington Monument.

I remember listening to Dr. Martin Luther King giving his speech. I remember seeing so many people. I remember it was a great day.

Sidney Glee (Class of 1963)

Sidney GleeWhen I first learned of the March on Washington, I was eager to participate in any way possible. As a student, I experienced being put in jail in Denmark, S.C. for protesting and participated in demonstrations in Charlotte, NC so I wanted to be a part of what I assumed to be an event of greater impact.

Early in the preparation stages, I signed up as a volunteer with a local community organization in my neighborhood. There were a lot of meetings in preparation for the march, which included making posters and signs and instructing people on the concept of non-violence in case something went wrong. We went from church to church in the area to get people to participate in the march and to see whether the churches were willing to provide housing for out-of-town participants. 

As the date of the march grew closer, the excitement level increased. I don’t think anyone on the planning committee had much rest the days leading up to the march. As a marshal, I was responsible for helping to maintain order. This included providing directions, passing out programs and observing the crowd for any acts of violence. If we observed any issues, we were instructed to notify the police to help maintain order; however, around my post, there were no issues at all.

On the day of the march, my duty station was on the north side of the Lincoln Memorial near the front. From my post, I could clearly see the stage and the crowd observing on the National Mall.  The whole day was a breathtaking experience. 

As we all reflect on the March on Washington now, the event and Dr. King’s speech are held in high esteem.  But going in, we didn’t know the magnitude of what we were going to experience.  In the last few days prior to the march, we were somewhat unsure of how big the event would be, but as morning turned to afternoon, I was able to see the crowd grow to a level beyond our wildest dreams. It was a long day, but by the end after Dr. King spoke, the crowd was extremely emotional and everyone was hugging and singing together. 

Tyward Jordan (Class of 1977)

I was ten years old and was being raised by a single mother with a younger sister and two younger brothers in the Marion Garden projects in Jersey City, N.J.

Ma told us that this would be part of history; that didn't mean much at the time. I was thinking that some of my friends would see me on television and that I would have to fight when I got back.

We boarded the buses, I remember the singing and the good spirits. When we got to D.C. there were people as far as the eye could see!

The march began, and I was handed a sign to carry. I wondered why there were white people at the march.

We listened to the speakers, and what got my attention was when Dr. King spoke of his children. I will always remember what he said and that I was a part of it.

Friend of JCSU - The Honorable John R. Lewis

U.S. Congressman (D-GA 5th District) 

Congressman John Lewis is one of the most noted civil rights leaders of our time. He was a founding member and chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which helped organize the March on Washington. At age 23, Congressman Lewis was one of the keynote speakers at the march. 

The Honorable John Lewis

In April 2013, Johnson C. Smith University presented its prestigious Arch of Triumph Award to Congressman Lewis for his lifetime of sacrifice, leadership and achievement. He accepted the award at the Arch of Triumph Gala on April 20, 2013. 

John Lewis Speaking at the Arch of Triumph Gala


Listen to John Lewis talk to Bill Moyers about the March

John Lewis adresses the thousands of people that gathered on the National Mall to celebrate the 50th anniversary


Congressman Lewis’s biography and some of his notable achievements are below: 

One of the Civil Rights Movement’s most courageous sons, Congressman John Lewis has dedicated his life to protecting human rights, securing civil liberties, and building what he calls “The Beloved Community” in America. His commitment to promoting the highest of ethical standards and moral principles has earned him the admiration of colleagues from both sides of Congress, as well as distinctions such as “the conscience of the U.S. Congress,” and “…a genuine American hero and moral leader who commands widespread respect in the chamber,” according to Roll Call magazine.

Such designations might have seemed unattainable for the son of sharecroppers born in the 1940s in rural Alabama. But for Lewis, who grew up on his family’s farm outside of Troy, Alabama and as a young boy attended segregated public schools in Pike County, the decision to become a part of the Civil Rights Movement was almost inevitable. Inspired by the activism surrounding the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., which he heard on radio broadcasts, Lewis reveled in those pivotal moments and since then has remained at the vanguard of progressive social movements and the human rights struggle in the United States.

As a student at Fisk University, he organized sit-ins at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, and in 1961, participated in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. During the height of the movement, Lewis, dubbed one of the movement’s Big Six leaders, was named Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he helped form, and at age 23 was a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963.

On March 7, 1965, Lewis, along with notable Civil Rights leader Hosea Williams, helped spearhead one of the most seminal moments of the Civil Rights Movement. The pair intended to lead over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors marching for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, but was brutally attacked by Alabama state troopers in a vicious confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” This senseless cruelty, captured by news broadcasts and in photographs, helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Despite more than 40 arrests, physical attacks and serious injuries, Lewis remained devoted to the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he went on serve as director of the federal volunteer agency, ACTION, and the Voter Education Project in which he added nearly four million minorities to the voter rolls. Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 1981 and to Congress in 1986 where he has since served as U.S. Representative of Georgia’s Fifth Congressional District.

A graduate of Fisk University and American Baptist Theological Seminary, Lewis holds a B.A. in religion and philosophy, as well as over 50 honorary degrees from prestigious colleges and universities across the country, including Morehouse and Spelman colleges, as well as Harvard, Brown, Princeton, Duke, and Johnson C. Smith universities.

The author of a new book entitled Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change (2012), he is also the recipient of countless awards including the only John F. Kennedy “Profile in Courage Award” for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation, the NAACP Spingarn Medal, and the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor granted by President Barack Obama.

Friend of JCSU - The Honorable Andrew J. Young

Ambassador Andrew J. Young is widely recognized as one of the nation’s foremost leaders for civil rights in the United States and human rights around the world. During the Civil Rights Movement, Ambassador Young served as an aide to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and helped to plan the March on Washington as well as protests and demonstrations throughout the South. 

Seated left to right: Bayard Rustin, Andrew Young, Rep. William Fitts Ryan, James Farmer, and John Lewis
Seated left to right: Bayard Rustin, Andrew Young, Rep. William Fitts Ryan, James Farmer, and John Lewis. Photo Credit: Stanley Wolfson - Library of Congress

On May 19, Ambassador Young delivered the Commencement Address to the Johnson C. Smith University Class of 2013. He challenged graduates to find their individual calling and work to solve the world’s problems. Ambassador Young told them that God has a purpose for everything, and He has a purpose for each of them.

The Honorable Andrew J. Young

You can hear Ambassador Young's commencement on the Queen City Metro's web site at http://www.qcitymetro.com/faith/articles/you_are_in_gods_hands081140241.cfm.

See Ambassador Young talking with students at Jean Young Middle School in Atlanta about the March on Washington.

Ambassador Young’s biography and some of his notable achievements are below:

Andrew Young has always viewed his career through the lens of his first career – that of ordained minister. His work for civil and human rights, his many years in public office as Congressman, United Nations Ambassador and Mayor of Atlanta, his leadership of the Atlanta Olympic Games, his advocacy of investment in Africa through GoodWorks International, and the establishment of the Andrew J. Young Foundation are all a response to his call to serve.

Ambassador Young brings a unique perspective formed by his wealth of experience in national and global leadership to his focus on the challenges of this era. He confronted segregation with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and galvanized a movement that transformed a nation through non-violence. Young was a key strategist and negotiator during the Civil Rights Campaigns in Birmingham and Selma that resulted in passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

He was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1972, the first African American elected from the deep South since Reconstruction. He served on the Banking and Urban Affairs and Rules Committees, sponsoring legislation that established a U.S. Institute for Peace, The African Development Bank and the Chattahoochee River National Park,while negotiating federal funds for MARTA, the Atlanta highway system and a new international airport for Atlanta.

Ambassador Young’s support for Jimmy Carter helped Carter to win the Democratic Party nomination and election to the Presidency. In 1977, President Carter appointed him to serve as the nation’s first African American Ambassador to the United Nations, where he negotiated an end to white-minority rule in Namibia and Zimbabwe and brought Carter’s emphasis on human rights to international diplomacy.

Ambassador Young’s leadership as Mayor of Atlanta took place during a recession and a reduction in federal funds for cities. He turned to international markets for investments in Atlanta attracting 1,100 new businesses, $70 billion in investment and adding one million jobs to the region. He developed public-private partnerships to leverage public dollars for the preservation of Zoo Atlanta.

Ambassador Young led the effort to bring the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta and as Co-Chair of the Atlanta Olympic Committee, he oversaw the largest Olympic Games in history – in the number of countries, the number of athletes and the number of spectators. He was awarded the Olympic Order, the highest award of the Olympic Movement.

Ambassador Young retired from GoodWorks International, LLC, in 2012 after well over a decade of facilitating sustainable economic development in the Caribbean and in Africa to the business sector.

Ambassador Young has received honorary degrees from more than 100 universities and colleges in the U.S. and abroad. President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and France awarded him the Legion d’Honneur, the greatest civilian honors in each nation.

He recently received an EMMY for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2011, his portrait became part of the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. President William J. Clinton appointed him the founding chair of the Southern African Enterprise Development Fund.

He serves on a number of boards, including the Martin Luther King Center for Non-Violent Social Change, Barrick Gold, the United Nations Foundation, the Atlanta Falcons, the Andrew Young School for Policy Studies at Georgia State University and Morehouse College.