Al Wallace recalls dramatic times and significance of MLK speech


Courtesy: Al Wallace

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — I was 5 years old on August 28th, 1963, and my family lived in Ft. Meade, Maryland. That’s less than an hour away from Washington, DC. I mention it because my older sister Beverly, 13 years old at the time, had been asking my mom for weeks if she could travel with a group of students from her junior high school and attend the March on Washington.

I remember my mom insisting: “NO!” I had no idea what the fuss was all about, because what’s a 5-year-old in 1963 supposed to be thinking? At the time, I had no idea I was attending an integrated school, and less than a year later after moving back to Texas, where I was born, I would be attending a segregated school.

I had no idea of the significance of the day, or the times. I just knew that my sister wanted to go real bad. I got to see my sister last month at a family reunion in Wichita, Kan. and the subject of the March on Washington never came up. I am a bit surprised by that, with the 50 year anniversary of the event upon us now.

In fact, we only talk about it once every couple of years now. I’m not sure how many young people during those days knew how significant the March on Washington was. Those were dramatic times. Times of change in this country, led by courageous men like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. After the speech, Dr. King met with President John F. Kennedy. According to a 23-year-old John Lewis at the time (Lewis would later become a member of congress) Kennedy said to King: “…and you had a dream.” The ‘dream’ of Dr. King was born on that day, August 28th, 1963.

Less than a month later in September, my younger brother, Stephan was born in Ft. Meade. Less than a month after that in October, I turned 6 years old. And a bit more than a month after that, the President was assassinated in my home state of Texas. Yes, those were dramatic times in this country, times of change. I certainly realize it now, 50 years later.

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