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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

Rev. C.T. Vivian, 89, Atlanta

Then: Baptist minister on the executive staff of King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

Now: President, SCLC, head of the C.T. Vivian Leadership Institute

Looking out on the crowd, Rev. C.T. Vivian thought, "We had built a movement from nothing to something. I thought when we left there, we would be in a far better position to fight racism." Even before King, Vivian had adopted nonviolence as a way to show whites "our humanity and their lack of it."

The King confidant had experienced that inhumanity firsthand. In one famous incident captured by television cameras, a Selma, Ala., sheriff broke his finger hitting Vivian. During the Freedom Rides, police beat Vivian so viciously with a billy club that his hands went numb trying to protect his head.

Vivian, however, chooses to focus on the victories. "You cannot name an institution in America that wasn't changed by the civil rights movement," he says. But racism, poverty and war continue to worry him.

"I'm still at it. True change does not come quickly."

Next page: Rowland Scherman. »

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