Remembering the March on Washington


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.

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

We’re also joined by Sundiata Cha-Jua, an Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 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!