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History Project: Resident felt call to march on Washington

In the 1960s, America was passing through a time of racial unrest and civil demonstrations.

On March 28, 1963, Dorothy Whitson, took part in the historic march in Washington for civil and economic rights for African Americans. The March on Washington was to be one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history.

Whitson and her husband had been stationed in the Deep South during the World War II.

"We were quite disturbed by the amount of segregation and discrimination we found down there and we were anxious to do what we could about it," she said.

Whitson grew up in India and became very interested in Gandhi's nonviolent movements.

"We understood that Dr. King had gotten quite a few of his ideas from Gandhi, and we heard that Dr. King would be at the march, so that was another reason we wanted to attend," she said.

Whitson remembers on the day of the march that she and her husband, "drove to Washington D.C. and went to Augustana Lutheran Church ... and went with a group on a bus from the church down to the mall."

It was from there that she joined the march towards the Lincoln Memorial.

She said she remembers her feelings upon arriving.

"I was a bit apprehensive. I can't say it was exactly being afraid," she said. "I wouldn't have had to been."

Whitson said she had not expected the massive amount of people that attended, but was expecting inspiration.

"We experienced a very wonderful attitude on the part of all the people that were attending. It was not scary or anything," she said. "It was a feeling of brotherhood a feeling of friendliness."

The march became an important part of the rapidly expanding Civil Rights movement.

It was also on this day that Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his inspiring and historic "I Have a Dream" speech advocating for racial equality and an end to discrimination.

Whitson agrees with his views saying, "civil rights should not be for just one group of people, that it should be for everybody."

Whitson describes the experience of being there as simply, "awesome," and compares it to going to the sea shore. She explains, it was like "seeing a wave come in, the waves stared out as a gentle swell and as he increased in his volume, it increased and everybody started to get quieter and he pulled everybody into what he was saying and it was like the wave got stronger and stronger and finally it just broke when it got to 'I have a dream' ... and everybody was crying... I know I cried, but it was a wonderful speech ... it moved me in a way that I'll never forget."

Dr. King's speech is one of the most well-known political speeches of the 20th century. His speech helped transform the nation and his words will remain and forever be recognized in history.

"It was great inspiration," Whitson said. "His choice of words was wonderful, but I think the spirit that came, that emanated from him was contagious and it just seemed like it caught us all up ... in one great message."

Whitson witnessed a day that is remembered by many.

"It did help me to understand more, although I never can fully understand what some of the things they must have gone through, it helped me to have a deeper understanding and also a greater admiration for Dr. King," she said.

Times have changed since the early '60s, although Whitson acknowledges the change she says, "there is still a ways to go" and said the march was "the beginning of a deep change."

Dr. King's speech was recently played at Carroll Lutheran Village and

"It had the same wonderful effect that it did back then," she said.

Whitson said she feels privileged to be a part of history and said she appreciates all the people that who took part in that memorable day.

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