As the crowd made its way down Constitution Avenue, one of the city's main thoroughfares, in sprinkling rain, it was led by veterans of the 1963 march walking arm in arm.
For many of them, the event was a passing of the torch to a new generation to take up the unfinished cause of the civil rights movement--the promise of equality "embedded in the founding of America," as Cheryl LaRoche put it.
The local Washington resident was 17 when she drove down from New York to take part in the original march. Now she was here with her 17-year-old grandson, Jackson Price.
DOCUMENTS: Coverage of the 1963 March
"I love the young people," LaRoche said. "They let you know they're going to pick up your work."
Many veteran marchers were joined by their families. Others were escorted by students from Alabama State University like Jessica Ledbetter.
The senior rehab services major said her grandparents had told her many stories of the original march and called it "breathtaking" to take part in the 50th anniversary.
"My parents don't have jobs and they need to work," she said. "I really understand that message of jobs and freedom."
[Updated, 8:55 a.m. PDT Aug. 28: The daylong celebration of the protest that drew more than 200,000 people to the nation’s capital began with an invitation-only interfaith prayer service at the Shiloh Baptist Church.
The commemoration, called “Let Freedom Ring” after a refrain in King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, unfolds at the Lincoln Memorial, the site of the march 50 years ago to the day, also on a Wednesday.
President Obama will close out a day of speakers that will also include former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter; Oprah Winfrey; the Rev. Al Sharpton; Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President Kennedy and Lynda Johnson Robb, the daughter of President; and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), the last remaining living speaker from the 1963 march.
The crowd will also be entertained by musical acts, including gospel and R&B singer BeBe Winans, country singer LeAnn Rimes and folk singers Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey.
At around 3 p.m. Eastern time (noon Pacific), people across the country will simultaneously mark the 50th anniversary of King’s speech by hosting “Let Freedom Ring” bell-ringing events, including in many of the places King mentioned in his speech.]
Marchers follow in King's footsteps
Anniversary puts spotlight on Obama and civil rights
50 years on, civil rights movement has changed with the times
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