Rare photos from the March on Washington displayed

WASHINGTON – More than 100 photos, many of them never seen before, are now on display at the Library of Congress to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

The display called “A Day Like No Other” will be up until March 1, 2014 in the Great Hall of the library’s Jefferson Building.

The exhibit consists of more than 70 photos in a video montage, 40 black and white photos independently taken by people at the march line the walls, and another 16 photos from various news outlets are encased in a glass display.

“They singly depict the crowd in a very aesthetic way, or close-ups of people and giving you a real feel for being there,” says exhibit curator Verna Curtis.

The exhibit was five years in the making, Curtis says.

“Knowing that the various commemorative events would be happening we started collecting on Civil Rights, and we purchased materials as well as we were given gifts from photographers, and also those from whom we purchased would give us extra prints,” Curtis says.

The photos displayed via video feature a collection from photographer Roosevelt Carter who managed to get close-ups of many celebrities, such as James Baldwin, Josephine Baker and Charlton Heston, who attended the march.

“Most of the celebrities who came, came to be part of the march. They came to be people, and they wanted to join in with the everyday people to support the cause,” says curator Maricia Battle, who worked with Curtis to create the exhibit.

She says her favorite photo is of the late actor and activist Ossie Davis standing at a podium while holding up a souvenir program in his right hand.

“You see the look on Mr. Davis’s face and he’s holding up this brochure, and you’re kind of going, ‘He meant business that day’,” Battle says.

The exhibit is free to the public, and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Wednesday, the library will have a one-day display related to the March on Washington.

Among the materials:

  • Two versions of the speech at the march by John Lewis, then-chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC): the original prior to editing, and the one he presented. Lewis, now a congressman from Georgia, will speak at the exhibit’s opening ceremony Wednesday.
  • Chief organizer Bayard Rustin’s original planning notes for the march.
  • March director A. Philip Randolph’s letter to President John F. Kennedy requesting a meeting “to discuss the program of the march and plans for implementation by your administration and Congress.”

Battle hopes the public will not only view the photos for their historic nature, but become engaged with the stories they tell.

“We want people to get that feeling for either remembering because they were there themselves, or just saying, ‘That’s the story my father, or my grandfather, talked about’,” Battle says.

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