Fifty years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington and people across our area traveled to the nation's capital to commemorate the historic event.
Wayne Williams, of Camden, New Jersey, was one of thousands who gathered at the Lincoln Memorial -- in the pouring rain -- just to be a part of history.
“It's the 50th anniversary of ‘I Have a Dream’, Williams told NBC10’s Nefertiti Jaquez. “It's the national commemorative day that we've been waiting for a long time, it’s now here.”
Williams says as a black man the event was an emotional one, especially when President Barack Obama addressed the crowd from the same spot Dr. King spoke to his followers a half century ago.
“It was on a Wednesday in 1963 and this is a Wednesday in 2013,” said Williams.
Todd Bernstein, director and founder of the annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service, was also in attendance. He says while a lot of progress has been made, there is still more work to be done.
“It’s an opportunity to look back over 50 years and reflect on the progress and the unfinished work,” said Bernstein. “It’s a wonderful celebration.”
It was also emotional for Reggie Yates of Baltimore, Maryland. He was at the first march and walked 49 miles from Baltimore just to attend.
“It brings back a lot of memories…it certainly feels like that spirit in ’63,” said Yates.
Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, Rep. John Lewis and other civil right leaders joined members of the King family during the 50th anniversary ceremony.
Carter railed against a recent Supreme Court decision that effectively erased a key anti-discrimination provision of the Voting Rights Act. He bemoaned a nation awash in guns with too many black Americans in prison.
Carter said he knows how King would have reacted, adding that “there's a tremendous agenda ahead of us.”
The bells at churches and other buildings across the region, including the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, rang at 3 p.m., to mark the hour King spoke to the crowd of hundreds of thousands.