CRF Blog

A Change Is Gonna Come

by Bill Hayes

In A Change Is Gonna Come, Smithsonian magazine interviews various participants in the March on Washington, which took place 50 years ago last summer.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, SNCC activist (later a 12-term D.C. delegate to Congress)

I was in law school, I was in Mississippi in the delta working on the predecessor for the workshops that were to take place a year later in the Freedom Summer. I got a call from one of my friends in New York who said, “You need to be here, Eleanor, because we are developing the March on Washington.” So I spent part of the summer in New York, working on this truly fledgling March on Washington. Bayard Rustin organized it out of a brownstone in Harlem; that was our office. When I look back now, I am all the more impressed with the genius of Bayard Rustin. I do not believe that there was another person involved with the movement who could have organized that march — the quintessential organizer and strategist. Bayard Rustin was maybe the only openly gay man I knew. That was simply “not respectable,” so he was attacked by Strom Thurmond and the Southern Democrats, who sought to get at the march by attacking Rustin. To the credit of the civil rights leadership, they closed in around Rustin. [more]