MILLEDGEVILLE — On Wednesday, August 28, people from across this country will gather on the nation's capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March On Washington by civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The march and rally, which took place August 28, 1963, attracted more than 200,000 people and featured King's groundbreaking "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
"It was during this period when King was at the peak of his influence on civil rights," said Dr. Mark Huddle, Georgia College history professor. Huddle, whose field of study is African-American history, knows all too well the importance of the march.
"It was a period of turmoil and division, not only between whites and blacks, but within the civil rights movement itself," said Huddle.
For President John F. Kennedy and his administration, the march was a public safety and a political risk that had to be closely managed and controlled, according to Huddle.
"King was always walking a tightrope because he knew he needed the support of the federal government," Huddle said. "He was always prodding and poking Kennedy to take a more affirmative stance on civil rights, but it wasn't until June when the president gave a speech that publically stated that the government would push for civil rights legislation."
During the time of the civil rights movement, the effects of segregation were most evident within the southern states of the nation. King's speech at the march was in direct contrast to George Wallace's speech in January of the same year. Wallace, governor of Alabama in 1963, called for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever," in his inaugural speech.
Local resident, Johnnie Wilson, a domestic violence advocate, recalls the atmosphere of the time as a sharp contrast to today's Baldwin County.