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AARP Bulletin

March on Washington — Then and Now

50 years ago, Americans rallied for civil rights. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a dream and six marchers return to the nation's capital to reflect

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Edith Lee-Payne, 61, Detroit

Then: 12-year-old birthday girl, captured in a well-known photo of the march

Now: Community activist, nonprofit director, marketing consultant

Edith Lee-Payne lived in an integrated neighborhood in Detroit when she came to Washington for The March. In kindergarten, she had played with dolls with her white neighbor. At the lunch counter, both black and white waitresses served her. But while at The March on her 12th birthday with her mother, she learned about segregation.

"I just could not grasp why things were so different for other people," especially in the South, says Lee-Payne. "It should be the same for everyone."

Singer Lena Horne recognized Edith's mother, a former dancer who had toured with Horne, and together they recounted stories the girl had never heard, such as seeing black people hanging from trees and using segregated hotel entrances.

Lee-Payne's epiphany shows in the photo above, which would later become an icon of the march and appear in books, brochures and news stories. But Lee-Payne never saw the ubiquitous photo until almost five years ago. Now identified, her portrait offers her opportunities to discuss the day that cemented her desire to fight injustice.

"It's an every-single-day process," she says.

Next page: Gordon H. "Gunny" Gundrum»

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