On August 28, 2020, the nation will celebrate the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered the iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.
I was among the estimated 250,000 demonstrators who travelled from across the nation to participate. As a 13 year-old teenager, I did not realize that I was participating in the greatest civil rights demonstration in American history in the heart of the civil rights movement. I was too young to realize that it was eight years after the anti-segregation Montgomery bus boycott; three years after the lunch-counter sit-ins in Nashville and Greensboro, N.C.; two years after the first Freedom Rides on interstate buses through the South; and three months after police in Birmingham, Ala., horrified the nation by using attack dogs and fire hoses against women and children protesting segregated public facilities.
Even though I had met Dr. King weeks before when he came to my church in Charleston, West Virginia, as the guest speaker with the purpose of inviting all church members to get on a bus and travel to Washington, D. C., I also did not realize then that I was shaking hands with the man who would later become known as the father of the civil rights movement.
After Dr. King delivered the Sunday sermon he was enjoying the $1.00 chicken dinner that was being served in the gymnasium. I politely approached and asked for his autograph. He shook my hand and signed the church bulletin where he was listed as the featured guest speaker.
When I returned to my seat my mother asked me to get another autograph. Dr. King graciously autographed another bulletin and warmly said, “son this is the last one!”
I still have those two church bulletins with Dr. King’s autograph and I will pass them on to my grandson. Too bad I will not be around when he is my age to share those valuable artifacts with his grandchildren as the nation continues to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 57 years from now and beyond.