UNCG Campus Weekly

Campus Weekly is published each Wednesday when classes are in session. In the summer, it is published biweekly.

Raleigh Bailey, leader of UNCG’s CNNC, participated in March on Washington 50 years ago

Portrait of Dr. Raleigh BaileyLast week, our nation marked the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” address highlighted that day a half-century ago. Dr. Raleigh Bailey, director of UNCG’s Center for New North Carolinians, was there. He was a young college student from Florida who’d been attending a Methodist student movement conference near Asheville. He shares in the most recent CNNC e-newsletter about his experience. The following is an excerpt:

Our conference decided to send delegates to the march. They asked for volunteers. I impetuously put up my hand. That afternoon I was in a car riding with three other delegates from our conference whom I did not know. I was the only white representative. We slowly wound down out of the mountains on old U.S. Route 70, heading across the Piedmont. We were headed toward Greensboro, a city I had never seen, to catch a bus for the rest of the trip. Around midnight we arrived at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, a school I had never heard of, where people were gathering to ride buses. Several buses were parked on campus waiting for people. They filled up and left in unison, with participants singing freedom songs. More than 2000 buses, planes, trains, and cars filled with protestors descended on Washington that day.

We arrived in the early morning and parked somewhere around the mall. Organizers told us to remember where our bus was parked and meet back there an hour after the event was over. From that point on until that evening, I did not see anyone that I knew, but I was swept up in a crowd that flowed like a tidal wave across the city. Many of the marchers gathered behind signs signifying different groups, labor union groups, church groups, civic groups. While African-Americans predominated, the groups were racially mixed, which impressed me. I walked behind a sign that said National Student Christian Federation for a while but then lost them. The wave flowed around government buildings, along city streets and eventually peaked around the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool. It was hot. There was no room to move. At one point I saw a woman faint, and the crowd lifted her up and passed her along over their heads, to a makeshift first aid tent.

I gradually wiggled over under the shade of a tree and pulled up on a limb to see an ocean of people that stretched as far as I could see. From that vantage point I could see the steps of the Memorial and the speakers standing there. Speeches had started and I was close to a loudspeaker. It was lunch time. I was hungry but still could not move. People around me had brought food and began passing it around. I remembered a story about loaves and fishes. Several powerful and progressive leaders spoke. Musical interludes were provided by Mahalia Jackson and others.

At one point I recognized the cadence of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking. The crowd around me began responding in turn. It was mesmerizing. The Martin Luther King speech, near the end of the scheduled program, did stand out. He said the Negro is “…crippled by manacles of segregation and chains of discrimination.” They were “…islands of poverty in a vast ocean of prosperity.” He described the marches and protests as “whirlwinds of revolt (that) will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” He called for justice, for protection, for job opportunities without discrimination. He called for nonviolent action in response to violence and oppression. It ended with a catalyzing moment as he shared his dream for the children of America, that they would come and hold hands together as they moved forward in America’s future.

Eventually the speaking was over. The crowd slowly began to disperse. It was a laborious process. Within about an hour I had made my way back to my bus, which was actually quite close. We crept out of the capital and arrived back at NC A&T around midnight. My group reassembled and started our drive back to the mountains. We arrived the next morning and reported on the march to the conference participants.

The full impact of this March on Washington would not be clear for months, but it was clear that this was a turning point in our nation’s consciousness about the harm of segregating a portion of the population and the importance of full freedom for everyone….

Excerpt courtesy CNNC. The full article is here.