Memorial in Annapolis honors civil rights 'foot soldiers'

There are monuments to leaders of the civil rights movement: the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall.

But many say there has never been recognition for the "regular people" who took up the cause, who marched on Washington and fought for change in their communities. Until now.

On Wednesday, the March on Washington Foot Soldiers Memorial will be unveiled in Annapolis, exactly 50 years after hundreds of thousands descended on Washington and heard King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

"The one group of people who have not even been footnotes in history have been the foot soldiers," said Carl O. Snowden, an Annapolis activist who worked to create the memorial with the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Committee.

"We know no matter how eloquent Dr. King was on Aug. 28, 1963," the impact would not have been as great "if there were not a quarter of a million people there," he said.

The committee previously installed a statue of King at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold and a garden honoring King's wife, Coretta Scott King, at Sojourner-Douglass College in Edgewater.

The March on Washington Foot Soldiers Memorial — a three-panel granite memorial with names of hundreds of march participants — will be installed at Whitmore Park, at Calvert and Clay streets in Annapolis. The park was picked for the memorial because it was a spot where marchers met the buses that took them to Washington in 1963.

Committee members have spent the last year tracking down people who attended the march and gathering their stories. Snowden, who also is chairman of the board of directors for the Housing Authority of the City of Annapolis, said he expects about 100 of those marchers to attend the unveiling.

Committee members also have been raising money for the memorial. Five people guaranteed a loan to cover the $50,000 cost of the memorial. About $20,000 has been raised so far.

Snowden said he hopes the memorial will help younger people understand that social change happens only when many people become invested — it can't be dependent only upon famous leaders.

"You need not be a Martin Luther King Jr., a Malcolm X or a Rosa Parks in order to make change in America," Snowden said. "It was the nondescript men and women — butchers, barbers, beauticians, maids, butlers and professors — who helped to change America for the better."

The monument will be dedicated at 10 a.m. Wednesday. The Anne Arundel County government will host a reception immediately afterward at the Arundel Center across the street. Annapolis city government will host a reception at noon at the First Baptist Church around the corner at 31 W. Washington St.

Whitmore Park is owned by the county and leased to the city. Both governments were involved in approving the memorial for the park.

At 3 p.m., many Annapolis churches are expected to participate in a nationwide ceremonial bell-ringing to mark the time that King began his famous speech, Snowden said.

For information about the memorial and dedication, call 410-269-1524 or visit Anyone with special needs who may need assistance can call Gail Smith in the Annapolis mayor's office at 410-263-7997.

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