Representative John Lewis (D-GA) is recognized as the only living speaker from the 1963 March on Washington. That is, if you don’t count Gloria Richardson.
In 1963, Gloria Richardson was a 41-year-old activist, an organizer of the Cambridge (MD) Movement, when she was asked to help coordinate travel for people attending the March. She was a part of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee, which was affiliated with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and became its chairwoman. As chair, she helped launch a multi-generational movement which focused on public accommodations, economic opportunities, and housing.
Richardson’s name was listed on the official program along with Daisy Bates, Diane Nash Bevel, Mrs. Medgar (Myrlie) Evers, Mrs. Herbert (Prince) Lee, and Rosa Parks as “Negro Women Fighters for Freedom.” Daisy Bates, former president of the Arkansas State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, spoke less than two minutes. When it was Richardson’s turn, she was only able to say “hello” before being whisked away from the microphones and off the stage.
Richardson’s story illustrates the marginalization of women and grassroots activists. There are so many great stories surrounding the Civil Rights Movement in general and March on Washington, in particular, but this anniversary has focused primarily on Martin Luther King and the anniversary of the “I Have a Dream Speech.” If you are weary of this over-simplified representation of people and events, you will enjoy learning about Gloria Richardson. (For a link to Gloria Richardson’s August 27 interview with Democracy Now! click here.)