Scenes from the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington
Over the weekend, some 250 residents from Boston, Worcester, and Providence descended on Washington, D.C., to join tens of thousands of people nationwide for the second March on Washington, marking the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march for civil rights when 250,000 people marched to demand school integration, meaningful legislation, and equal rights for African-Americans. This year, committed to “Jobs, Justice and Freedom,” the NAACP and its New England Area Conference (NEAC) organized busloads of New Englanders, spurred on by the death of Trayvon Martin and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decimation of what many called the heart of the Voting Rights Act.
“[It was] absolutely exhilarating because I have spent a fair amount of my time in the past 20 years in movement-related activities,” says Juan Cofield, president of the NAACP’s New England Area Conference. He was just finishing high school in Raleigh, N.C., in 1963, the year of the first March, and had been involved in protests for equal rights but did not attend the first March. This time, he made it—not to mention that he was instrumental in helping others get there, too.
Besides the powerful speeches by those who had been at the 1963 March, such as John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, and Julian Bond, as well as the Rev. Al Sharpton and Attorney General Eric Holder, Cofield says what will most stick with him was “the diversity—black, white, Latino. [There were] as many young people there as people my age,” he says.