Congressman John Lewis will speak at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Saturday afternoon. It’s to commemorate 50 years since the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis is the last living member of the six march organizers. They were calling for civil rights for African-Americans.
In a 2006 interview with GPB, Lewis remembered meeting with President John Kennedy before the march. He recounts A. Phillip Randolph, the dean of the black leadership, trying to convince Kennedy the protest was a good idea.
“You could tell by the very body language of President Kennedy that he didn’t like what he heard. He started moving, twisting in his chair. He said ‘Mr. Randolph, if you bring all these people to Washington won’t there be violence, chaos and disorder?’ Mr. Randolph responded and said ‘ Mr. President, this will be a peaceful, non-violent protest.”
Lewis recalled hearing King address the nearly quarter million people gathered on the Mall. “I’d heard Dr. King speak on so many occasions before then. But that day, he spoke from the depth of his soul. He had the ability to transform those marble steps into a modern day pulpit.”
Lewis said the inscription on those steps marking the spot where King gave the speech always moves him. “When I went there for the unveiling of it, I cried. Who would have thought that when Dr. King said ‘I have a dream’ that those simple words would be inscribed for generations yet to come.”
Check out the half hour Conversation with Congressman John Lewis.