One Historic March, Countless Striking Moments

We started our historical Twitter account, @TodayIn1963, in June with the idea that we wanted to bring this monumental year back to life with a modern take.

NPR librarian JoElla Stralley, Code Switch's Matt Thompson and I combed through primary sources and archived newspaper articles to replicate the moments of that era. We saw first-hand the ways that different newspapers handled Civil Rights coverage, often filling a small span of their pages with protest stories from the AP or UPI, or even with Q and As that had eerily modern tinges. This was our chance to re-tell the story of 1963 again, with greater detail and in a contemporary way.

The summer of 1963 was bursting with drama and would become a pivotal moment of the Civil Rights movement. It was the year that Alabama governor George Wallace tried to block — physically and politically — two black students, James Hood and Vivian Malone Jones, from enrolling in the University of Alabama; the year Medgar Evers was shot and killed in his own driveway; and the same year that brought together more than 200,000 protesters for the March on Washington for better jobs and equal treatment.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech. So often we forget or overlook the minor but telling details of the day and of that summer. And today's the day, so to speak. We've researched and compiled more than 100 tweets to bring Aug. 28, 1963 to life and add texture to that moment.

Here are 10 moments big and small from Aug. 28, 1963 that often get overlooked:

  • The Mall was so crowded that many folks went temporarily missing, including actress and singer Lena Horne, as well as Jackie Robinson's son, David. Both Lena and David were announced missing via the $16,000 loud speaker system.
  • John Lewis had to tone down his original speech after pressure from March organizers. (Read Lewis' prepared remarks and compare it to his actual speech.)
  • At 3 a.m., the National Council of Churches launched "Operation Sandwich" and aimed to make 80,000 bagged lunches, which they sold for $0.50 each.
  • Hazel Mangle Rivers of Birmingham, Ala., told New York Times reporter Frank Powledge of her experience at the March: "I believe that was the first time a white person has ever really been nice to me."
  • By 2 p.m., thousands of folks had already drifted out of earshot and left the ceremony, when the speeches officially began. They missed both Mahalia Jackson sing and Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have A Dream" speech.
  • After the March, the roads were eerily quiet. Demonstrators had left the city by buses, trains and planes throughout the day.
  • The New York Times reported on Aug. 29 that only four people were arrested in relation to the March: one was a member of the American Nazi Party who tried to address a group of counter-protesters without a demonstrator's permit, one was throwing rocks at a bus filled with marchers, another had a loaded shotgun and the fourth stole a protestor's sign and tore it up.
  • Folks posed like tourists for photos at the March and even rode the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument.
  • George Lincoln Rockwell, American Nazi Party leader, tried organizing a crowd of about 70 counter protesters at the base of the Washington Monument. He left the March in disgust, saying he was ashamed of his race.
  • Bob Dylan sang "Only A Pawn In Their Game."
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

Source: NPR [,1004,1007,1013,1014,1017,1019,1128]

Become a KQED sponsor

Follow KQED News on Facebook

Follow KQED News on Twitter

For the latest updates from KQED News, follow us on Twitter.