South Carolinians reflect on 50th anniversary of MLK's 'dream' - - Columbia, South Carolina

South Carolinians reflect on 50th anniversary of MLK's 'dream'


Fifty years ago in Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. took to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered the famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Civil rights activists from across the country traveled to the nation's capital to hear those history-making remarks.

Several of those activists were from South Carolina and say their lives were profoundly impacted by the King's March on Washington.

"It was amazing how well organized it was," said Dr. Thelma Gibson. "Everybody seemed very focused on what was to take place. Everybody was very friendly."

Gibson was a rising sophomore at Benedict College on Aug. 28, 1963. She rode up to Washington from Columbia with a bus-full of marchers eager for what was to come.

"We spent our time on the bus singing, just thinking about what kind of experience we were going to have," said Gibson.

She got off the bus, grabbed a sign, and joined thousands on the National Mall to march for equality and hear King's speech.

Bishop Frederick James, a leader in the AME church, says he marched with Dr. King several times and stood behind him on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago.

"Martin Luther King, Jr. was an extraordinary individual," said James. "He was extraordinary because he had qualities which linked him so inseparably with the average man."

James said the march was about the dissatisfaction with being considered a second-class citizen because of his race.

"For anybody who said that we were okay until somebody stirred us up, that was not true."

James says the diversity of the crowd was fascinating.

"Young people were there; seniors were there; middle-agers were there; Christians were there; Jews were there; Muslims were there; Atheists were there," said James.

They all gathered to demand desegregation, equal access to jobs, voting rights, and most of all, respect.

"We didn't want anyone to give us a handout," said Gibson. "We wanted to be able to be treated the same and earn our own way."

"We had faith and we still have faith and we still love America," said James. "We love the Constitution of the United States of America and believe in it and insist, insist that it be applied to every American citizen."

James, Gibson and thousands of others say they were changed by the songs, the atmosphere and the words charged to everyone in the crowd.

"We are a long ways, a very long way from where we ought to be and where we should be and where we can be," said James.

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