You can learn about history by taking classes and reading textbooks, but nothing makes historic events come alive like the memories and first-hand accounts of people who experienced them.
Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rosie Brooks and hearing her stories about the March on Washington in 1963. Rosie was a teenaged dance student when she showed up on the National Mall to demand change. She had no idea what to expect that hot August day, but Rosie says the March impacted her life in ways she never anticipated.
50 years after the March, Rosie is now a dance teacher, and she is passing her memories and wisdom along to younger generations of dancers. Her stories are vivid, but her message is simple: “do unto others as you wish them to do unto you.”
Here are a few of my favorite Rosie memories:
1. More powerful than seeing or hearing MLK’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech was the feeling of the crowd’s response:
“There was a serenity about the crowd.You had people that just reached and hugged you because you were there, you know. You didn’t know them, and they didn’t know you, but you were there.”
2. Even though the Capitol Hill Police and Army were on high alert to deal with violence that day, their services were never needed. The March on Washington was 100% peaceful.
“I think had there been riots and things like that, people would have said ‘see, I told you so.’ So the whole thing just worked to such an advantage for the cause, and I think the cause of mankind.”
3. The March on Washington has influenced Rosie throughout her life, and Dr. King’s speech about equality and justice has had a big impact on her career as a dance teacher:
“It’s funny because you hear things, and that seed gets planted. That whole day on the Mall, it impacted my choreography and what I give to the kids to convey. I’m trying to pass along the knowledge that you know, we are all going to deal with this in some ways. We have made progress, ok, we have made progress. But there is still room for growth. Room for improvement.”
Our full story with Rosie will air on August 28th, so I am looking forward to sharing more of her powerful memories with you all.