A march remembered

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Lucila Woodard was 29 years old when she made her first visit to Washington, D.C.  On August 28, 1963, she attended the March on Washington in the nation’s capital and her memories from the day include hearing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous words.

Today a resident of Greenspring Village in Springfield, Va., where she shared her story, Woodard is looking back half a century on the eve of the 50th anniversary events commemorating the historic march

Woodard was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and moved to the U.S. with her mother in 1962, just one year before the March on Washington.  She began working for the headquarters of the Episcopal Church in New York City, where she met her husband, Jack, an Episcopalian priest.

Before moving to the U.S., Woodard, now 79, remembers being confused about the civil rights issues in the country.  She noted that in the Dominican Republic, you were not judged or denied opportunities based on your race; rather, one’s class was more of a distinguishing factor. 

According to Woodard, there was a bus chartered from the headquarters of the Episcopal Church to D.C. for the march.  At the time she was working for a priest who was deeply involved in the civil rights movement, so she had the opportunity to take part in the historic event. 

“When entering  D.C. on New York Avenue, I saw apprehension on the faces of the African-Americans in the neighborhood,” she said.  “Later, I learned that there was a growing concern not only in the local residents, but also from the government that the event would turn violent.”  But that wasn’t the case, she said.  “There was no violence; none at all.” 

Woodard recalls that she was able to attend the march with her brother and her uncle that day; a particularly special occasion considering her brother was visiting from the Dominican Republic.

“Every year on the anniversary, my husband and I would listen to the Martin Luther King, Jr. speech on tape,” said Woodard.  “It was just one way for us to commemorate the day.”

Were you at the March like Woodard? How will you be commemorating the historic March on Washington?