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From C-U to the March on Washington

10 am Monday, Aug. 26, on WILL-AM's Focus: We’ll talk with Champaign-Urbana native Bill Smith about what it was like to be at the March on Washington 50 years ago.

Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington

Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington AP Photo

In 1963 when he made the trip from Champaign to Washington D.C., Bill Smith was 21. As an active member of the NAACP chapter at the University of Illinois, he says he remembers feeling awed and inspired by the sheer number of other people who were gathered at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Even as a high school student at Champaign Central, he says he was involved with bringing the blacks and whites together. But it was when he returned from the march that he says he was motivated to really become an agent for change.

Host Jim Meadows talks with Smith about his experience at 1963 March on Washington; his relationship with his long-time mentor, the Erma Bridgewater, and about the racial climate during the 1960s in east central Illinois. 

We’re also joined by Sundiata Cha-Jua, an associate professor of history and African American studies at the U of I about the significance of the march in the context of the larger movement and about Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

Did you know someone who marched in a protest during the 1960’s? Did you? What was it like to be a part of one? We want to hear from you this hour on Focus!

Watch The March on WILL-TV at 8 pm Tuesday, Aug. 27. Get more information.