GOOD MORING P.O.U.!
“And a child shall lead them….”
“Free Lemonade for Freedom Marchers” read the banner Marguerite Kelly’s children hung in their Capitol Hill rowhouse window on Aug. 28, 1963. Katy, right, was 7 and remembers marchers in their Sunday best, gloves for the women, jackets and ties for the men. She is shown here with her sister, Meg, left, then 3½, and her 6-year-old brother, Michael, who became a reporter and editor for The Washington Post and the New York Times and was the first journalist killed in Iraq. Who are the boys who stopped by and posed for this photo? Whom did they grow up to be?
Katy Kelly, 57, left, and her sister, Meg, 53, outside the Capitol Hill home their family still owns. Many of their white neighbors fled the area after the riots following Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, but the Kellys remained.
(SOURCE: The Washington Post)
Roosevelt Nesmith of Camden, N.J., talks to his 3-year-old son, Roosevelt Noel, the day before the march. Between the father and son and the Washington Monument is a stack of signs that the marchers would carry the next day. As the head of the NAACP in Burlington County, N.J., for decades, until his death in 2006, the elder Nesmith challenged local housing laws and won a landmark 1975 decision from the state Supreme Court, which ruled that every New Jersey town must provide housing for low- and moderate-income families.
Roosevelt Nesmith, 53, posed for a portrait this month in Camden, N.J. He was 3 years old when his father took him to the March on Washington.
(SOURCE: The Washington Post)
Edith Lee Payne recalls Aug. 28, 1963, like it was last week.
It was her 12th birthday. She and her mother were at her Aunt Edith’s home in Washington, D.C., preparing to attend the March on Washington for Jobs and Equality. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had spoken in Detroit two months before and asked the throngs who turned out to come to the nation’s capital.
Edith, dressed in a paisley dress and a hairstyle like that of actress Patty Duke, ate scrapple, scrambled eggs and grits before they climbed into her aunt’s ’60 Chevy Impala to drive to American Red Cross headquarters, where they traded for a truck to head to the Lincoln Memorial.
Few people were there so early, but as the sun rose higher, some who recognized her mother, who had grown up in Washington, stopped by.
“We were listening to Peter, Paul and Mary on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, and Lena Horne came over to speak to my mother,” Payne recalls.
For a moment, Edith Lee Payne sounds 12 years old, seeing her mother — and America — in a new light.
Dorothy Lee had been a dancer who performed with Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington and who baby-sat Sammy Davis Jr. when his father was working. Later, in Detroit, she had performed in black entertainment districts. But in August 1963, Dorothy Lee was a domestic with fond memories and dreams for her only child.
Later, as King spoke, Payne says she remembers hearing things she hadn’t heard before about an America her parents had hidden from her. She had never known racism or discrimination or the emotional pain at the root of the civil rights movement.
“I’d never heard my mother say she experienced any racial injustices like having to go through back doors and use for-colored-only water fountains and how people … were being brutalized,” she recalls. “I wondered why she never told me. I’m actually glad that she didn’t.”
“As far as I knew, I lived the dream because I lived in an interracial neighborhood,” she says.
Her face, with that look of quiet reflection, was among those Rowland Scherman photographed that day. Scherman was a photographer for the U.S. Information Agency and the primary photographer of the event. Scherman’s photo of Payne became one of the iconic images of the ’63 March.
Payne wouldn’t know about the photo for 35 years.
“My cousin, Marsha, was looking through a catalog, and she noticed on the cover of this 2009 black history calendar that it was my picture! So she called me and told me. I couldn’t believe that my picture — me —would be on a calendar with Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther and Sojourner Truth and Jessie Owens! And on the back cover was a picture of the Little Rock 9.”
She purchased the photo. Her mother, who died in 1993, never saw it.
The girl in that photo was different from the girl who returned from the march.
Payne recalls an idyllic life attending integrated schools and living in an integrated neighborhood.
“When I say to people that I went to integrated schools, the best way I can show them, the best way I can support what I say, is my yearbook,” she says. “We did drama. We sang in the choir. We went through a high school experience together. There was no violence.”
So much happened after the ’63 march, she says. It helped usher in national legislation that protected the rights of black people to vote and ended Jim Crow laws.
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