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To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, WETA Television has created three short video pieces highlighting Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). Both played a role in organizing the March and Lewis gave one of the keynote speeches.
Video: Rep. John Lewis Remembers the March on Washington
Lewis remembers that the speech he planned to give included a warning that, "If we do not see meaningful progress here today, the day may come when we will not confine our marching on Washington. We may be forced to march through the south the way Sherman did." March organizers A. Phillip Randolph and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. felt that this ran counter to the non-violent spirit of the event and asked him to tone down. Lewis ducked behind the Lincoln Memorial statue and made edits to the speech moments before taking the podium.
Video: Rep. John Lewis Recalls His Speech
At the time of the March, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton was working with the organizing committee in New York. As she recalls, "There was great excitement but no sense as to whether the March would really happen. Excitement grew and people began to call in and people like me went around and spoke to groups encouraging them to come. People would call and say, 'How can I get a bus? How can I get a train?'"
Norton volunteered to remain at the Harlem office until the morning of the March to take care of last minute arrangements. She then caught a plane to Washington and had a unique vantage point to see the masses assemble on the National Mall. She was one of the first to realize the immensity of the turnout. "I stayed all night in that brownstone by myself so that I could go to LaGuardia and fly in. And fly I did, looking out of the window to see if I could see any evidence of gatherings. And boy did I see evidence of gatherings!"
Video: Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton Reflects on the March