John Lewis said when he attended the historic March on Washington 50 years ago, he knew the day would be remembered.
"You knew this was a moment in history, that you were part of something big," Lewis said, who was active in the civil rights movement in Carroll County. "I certainly knew when I got there that I was part of something far bigger than me and far bigger than Carroll County."
Lewis will relive the march today, as President Barack Obama, and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter will speak at the Let Freedom Ring Commemoration and Call to Action event at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Lewis, 77, will be attending the commemoration of the march and Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech, which King recited at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963.
"I am going to feel honored and privileged to be able to participate and to be part of the continuous movement," said Lewis, who is a past president of the Carroll County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
During the time period of the march, Lewis said blacks faced discrimination in Carroll County. He said there has been much progress since then, but there is still some underlying discrimination that exists. He cited various discrimination cases the local NAACP chapter has taken on in recent years, and a case last December where two juveniles burned a cross in a driveway in the 500 block of Ravenshead Run Road in Westminster.
He said nationally there are major issues the modern civil rights movement must face. Two cardinal issues are repealing Stand-your-ground laws, which allow people to use deadly force without trying to evade a dangerous situation, and fighting to strengthen The Voting Rights Act, Section 4 of which was struck down by the Supreme Court in June, he said.
While an activist in the county in the 1960s, he and others sat in restaurants and other public areas to ensure businesses were following public accommodation laws. He said he participated in other demonstrations urging equal rights as well.
Lewis, who lives in New Windsor, said he remembered there was an initial sense of apprehension for the people who attended the march, as some people were worried about possible violence. He said he had previously received threats for his civil rights work in Carroll County.
But he said his worries subsided as he saw the unity of the people at the march.
"What fascinated me was that there were people from all walks of life, from all across this country, and outside of the country," Lewis said. "This old county boy was just elated to be in the middle of them".
Eldersburg resident Charles Harrison, who also attended the march 50 years ago, said his parents were worried about him going, as they had seen on television violent reactions to other civil rights protests. But after the march, they were proud of Harrison, who was 16 years old when he attended the march, he said.
Harrison, who lived in southeast Baltimore at the time, said he had no idea the march would be such an historic event. He said the march inspired him.
"It created self-pride and gave me the confidence to know that I can do whatever I wanted to do, despite those artificial barriers," Harrison said, who works today as a judge for the county's Orphans' Court.
Harrison, who is also a past president of the county's chapter of the NAACP, said he was glad that people of all races joined in the march 50 years ago. He said King's speech was tremendous.
"It really motivated the crowd and gave me the opportunity to see what strong black leadership was," Harrison said.