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00000176-770f-dc2f-ad76-7f0fae0c0000Were you at the March, or know someone who was? Email us at newsroom@wypr.org

We Knew In Our Hearts, That We Were Going To Win

In August 1963, Richard T. Lawrence, white, was 20-years-old and in seminary. He has served as the pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Church in Baltimore for the past 40 years.

It wasn’t the beginning, and it wasn’t the end. Lord knows, we haven’t reached the end. But it was the point at which we knew in our heart that we were going to win. At which point, it became inevitable as long as we didn’t give up, as long as we didn’t stop believing, stop trying.

You looked around there, it was 250,000 of us. You knew. We were for real, we serious. This is going to change.

For those of us here from Baltimore who were Catholics—I was a seminarian at the time—we had mass at the ungodly hour of 7 o’clock in the morning at St. Peter Claver on Fremont Avenue. Then we went over by bus caravan. That was something. The buses were put together in convoys and taken down to an unloading point by the Washington Monument. And we’re going down New York Avenue; this was in the heart of African-American working class and poor neighborhoods in Washington. And everybody who was poor, old, young, sick, frail, otherwise unable to go to the March, turned out on the streets to waive the buses in. Stood there waiving handkerchiefs at us as we came by. Made you feel like Eisenhower entering Paris.

And then they assembled us at the Washington Monument. Everybody came out to perform. I mean Woody Guthrie came out of retirement to play for us. Peter, Paul and Mary-whom nobody had ever heard of yet. Everybody in between. Then a little after 11:00 a.m., this tidal surge started. It wasn’t really a march, it was sort of a tidal surge. I swear I could have picked my feet up and not hit the ground, I would have been carried halfway down the reflection pool.

And then we heard speeches, and speeches, and speeches. And then Dr. King got started, and within minutes everybody knew that this was not another speech.  This was prophecy. Prophecy in the Biblical sense: the voice of God explaining what’s happening in the present. As well as in the common use: the voice of God predicting the future. He looked at America the way God looks at America, and made us look at it in the same way.