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Bill Moyers and Rep. John Lewis: 50 Years After the March on Washington, America Is a Long Way from True Equality

“To look out and see the best of America convinced me more than anything else that this is the product, this is the work of the movement,” Civil Rights Leader Lewis tells Moyers.

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BILL MOYERS: And today he's the only survivor of the group of leaders who spoke up here on August 28, 1963. Let's go up and look at the spot.

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Thank you. Good to see you.

You have to find the spot.

BILL MOYERS: Where is the spot? Here it is.

When you finished that speech you got a great ovation and you walked back to your seat. What were you thinking?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, I was thinking to myself, "How did it go?" And I said to myself, "I think it went well." And the young people in SNCC, I got the reading from them. They were cheering and they were, really they enjoyed it. And they were glad that I made it through the speech I think.

BILL MOYERS: Do you know about the March on Washington?

CHILD #3: It's the 50th anniversary, right?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: The 50th anniversary is August the 28th. We will celebrate and commemorate the 50th anniversary.

BILL MOYERS: He was standing right here where you're standing now looking out there. That's the crowd.

CHILD #3: Are you in that picture?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Yes.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah. Well, here he is. That's young John Lewis.

REP. JOHN LEWIS: That's me there.

It was good to be in the presence of Lincoln. To be -- I felt very honored to be there on that day 50 years ago. And I feel honored to have an opportunity to come here almost 50 years later.

MALE VOICE #1: Five, four, three, two, one.

MALE VOICE #2: Testing, ten nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.

REP. JOHN LEWIS: On that morning, August 28th, 1963, 50 years ago, I knew that I had to try to do my best, my very best. So, early that morning we came to Capitol Hill as a group. We went on over and met with the Democratic and Republican leadership.

And then, we came down Constitution Avenue.

BILL MOYERS: Walking?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Walking.

REP. JOHN LEWIS: It was the so-called Big Six, plus four major white religious and labor leaders that had been invited to issue the call for the March on Washington.

BILL MOYERS: Well, this is the picture I have of the leaders. Were you leaving Capitol Hill then?

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Here, we were leaving Capitol Hill. It was unreal. It was unbelievable. When we got to this point, the people were already walking. And a sea of humanity, we just saw hundreds and thousands of people coming toward Union Station. And they literally pushed us toward the Washington Monument, and then on toward the Lincoln Memorial.

On that first part of the march, it was the people, not the leaders. We were followers.

BILL MOYERS: Call out their names for us.

REP. JOHN LEWIS: Well, here you have young John Lewis.

Twenty-three. Chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Mathew Ahmann, who was from the Catholic Council for Interracial Justice from the city of Chicago. And here is Floyd McKissick. Floyd McKissick was the chair of the board of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality. He was standing in for James Farmer, who was the executive director of CORE. Well, Farmer was in jail in Louisiana and refused to come out of jail to participate in the march.

And here is Martin Luther King, Jr. A wonderful human being. He was my leader, my inspiration, my hero. I first met him in 1958 when I was 18 years old. This is Eugene Carson Blake, who was head of the National Council of Churches.

 
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