50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement approaching - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement approaching

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Ms. Amelia Boynton-Robinson, at over 100-years-old, remembers being beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and being right at the front for Dr. King's "Dream" speech. Ms. Amelia Boynton-Robinson, at over 100-years-old, remembers being beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge and being right at the front for Dr. King's "Dream" speech.
Charles Hardy recalls the excitement of people boarding buses and going to Washington. Charles Hardy recalls the excitement of people boarding buses and going to Washington.

Right now, plans are already underway to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, and this one could mirror the march that happened a half century ago.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, thousands are expected to once again converge on the Lincoln Memorial to not only retrace history, but to recreate that resounding push that's credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts.

We look back from two perspectives, at history and change.

"When I got to Washington, they had the tents and the people were to give your credentials..." explained Amelia Boynton Robinson who almost missed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's famous speech.

Once she arrived in D.C. she realized she didn't have and credentials. Her saving grace? The secretarial minutes she carried with her from Southern Christian Leadership Conference meetings in Selma, Alabama.

"He says, "I tell you what, you go on..." and he opened the gate for me, "then you go on the back of Lincoln, and then you come on up to the top..." and when I knew anything, I was right there in the arm of Abraham Lincoln..."  And she had a front row seat to what would be one of the most historic speeches of all time.  

"It's not only black people or white people or brown people. There are people who believed in justice, and to hear Dr. King at that time, he believed in that. He believed that all men would be created equal," Robinson said.

They arrived in Washington by any means necessary. By bus, train, plane or car.  It's estimated more than 200,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. 

"It was an exciting time. Persons who didn't really have the means made the sacrifice. They started talking about, "We're going to Washington, we're gonna go..."" explained Charles Hardy who was fresh out of Alabama State University when his mother boarded a bus and headed north.

Sarah Hardy worked with the Montgomery Improvement Association, the same group led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1955 that successfully desegregated buses in Montgomery.

"She felt dedicated to follow through. This was seen as the next step after the Montgomery bus protest, the next big thing they were talking about, we gotta go to Washington."

Once there, they heard representatives from each of the sponsoring organizations address the crowd. Dr. King, then president of the SPLC, spoke last. It was his "I have a dream speech" and it was televised live to thousands of people who didn't make it to Washington.

"It was a big deal in 1963, a lot of excitement..."

After Washington, the fight for civil rights became more visible and more violent. Nearly a month after King's speech came the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Two years later came "Bloody Sunday" in Selma.

Mrs. Amelia Boynton-Robinson was badly beaten as she crossed the Edmond Pettus Bridge.

"I think it's time for me to sit down..." she explained. And, at over 100 years old, she looks forward to that rest. But she worries if she sits down, who will stand up? Who will take on future civil rights causes?

"I've had a lot of folks say to me "We're on your shoulders. We're the foundation." What are you going to do build on it, or step on it?" Boynton-Robinson worries.

Some believe the steps recently taken by the U.S Supreme Court to knock down Section Four of the Voting Rights Act will only motivate marchers to head to Washington to mark the 50th anniversary.

The anniversary march will be held August 24th in our nation's capital and is sponsored by several groups including the National Action Network.

Their website - AVAILABLE HERE - will provide you information on where the march will start,  and includes info on what will follow.

If you're interested in attending the August 24th march, a local group wants to hear from you.   You can call 334-262-0932.

And locally, leading up to that event, the National Coalition of Leaders to Save Section Five of the Voting Rights Act will hold candelight events in Selma and Montgomery on August 6th, the actual signing of the Voting Rights Act.   

Copyright 2013 WSFA 12 News.  All rights reserved.

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