11Alive's DeMarco Morgan is in Washington DC this week for the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. He's telling the stories of the Atlantans remembering the historic march. He'll be sharing the stories of 50 Years of Change: Share the Journey all week on 11Alive and 11Alive.com.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Wednesday marks the 50th anniversary of that iconic speech - arguably one of the most instrumental speeches in our nation's history.
During his speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. actually moved from his prepared text and started adlibbing as he told the world about his dream. Civil Rights leaders say it was truly a defining moment.
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Final preparations for the anniversary got underway Tuesday. The eve promised to be yet another historic event on the front steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
One of Dr. King's close friends, Atlanta's own Dr. Bernard Lafayette, Jr. will be among thousands commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
"The purpose of the March on Washington was to show the leadership in Washington that it was not just black people who wanted this change," Lafayette said. "No change could take place unless you're able to win the sympathy of the majority."
The anniversary is a special moment for Dr. Lafayette, who along with King and so many others participated in sit-ins, marches and freedom rides throughout the south.
"I had already been involved in demonstrations," he said.
King had appointed the activist - national coordinator of the "Poor People's Campaign."
Five years after the 'I Have a Dream" speech, Lafayette would unknowingly have his last conversation with Dr. King who was in Memphis, Tenn. at the time. Five hours after catching a plane to the east coast, Dr. Lafayette learned King had been shot.
"At that point he had not been pronounced dead," Lafayette said.
He started to see tears in a nearby friend's eyes.
"That was the first signal I had that Martin Luther King had died. I had to make a decision," Lafayette said.
That was the decision to keep Dr. King's dream alive.
"President Obama, the nation's first African-American president," Lafayette said, "I personally did not think that I would live to see it, and I was absolutely elated over this."