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ERN Reporters discuss the March

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Summary
The Educational Radio Network / ERN's coverage of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. March on Washington, 10:30 P.M. - 11:00 P.M.
Topics
African Americans, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Washington, D.C., 1963., Civil rights, Demonstrations
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Transcript

Introduction to the panel discussion

START AUDIO
Geesey:
Good evening again from Washington. This is George Geesey in the headquarters of the Educational Radio Network, for bringing you a live coverage all day today, on the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. However, this time it's my pleasure to have in the studio many of the reporters that were today down in the march area. Let's call in first Malcolm Davis and have you explain once more where you were.
Davis:
Maybe George I should say, as I did earlier today, thank you George, and right here at the Washington Monument, but I'm happy to say right now, here in the studio away from the sun. That's where I was George.
Geesey:
And Arnold Shaw, where were you?
Shaw:
I was at the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial.
Geesey:
Al Hulsen?
Hulsen:
A long, long day George beginning about 6:30 at the ellipse, and then onto the Lincoln Memorial at about 11:30.
Geesey:
Cal Nossiter?
Nossiter:
And I reflected with Arnie at the reflecting pool.
Geesey:
And Jeff Guylick?
Guylick:
I began at 19th and Constitution, and ended up everywhere.
Geesey:
And we've left out one person, David Edwards.
Edwards:
I began, I in fact followed Al Hulsen around, first at the monument, and then at Lincoln Memorial.

Reactions from Boston on the March of Washington

Geesey:
Well, I and a committee of one or two others have decided that you did a very fine job. It certainly was a large turn out. It was a very important thing that happened here in Washington today. We were quite pleased back here with the reports that you gave us, it almost enabled us from this vantage point, to see exactly what was happening at each of your different sites. So our thanks to you.
During this next half hour, we'll be having some interviews that weren't heard during our live portion, but they were interviews made by the same reporters who have just introduced themselves to you, the radio audience. And, we'll be talking with them as to their impressions, what they saw down at the Washington Monument grounds, along Constitution Avenue, and finally from the steps and the surrounding area of the Lincoln Memorial.
Standing by in the Boston studios of the Educational Radio Network is Bob Genest, and he has several interviews for us. So, let's switch now to Boston and Bob.
Genest:
Thank you George. Well here in Boston, we're busy reviewing reaction to the historic civil rights demonstration in the nation's capital. First, we hear from the governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, His Excellency Endicott Peabody. Governor Peabody was questioned this afternoon at the Massachusetts state house by WGBH-FM Reporter, Ted Mascott.
Mascott:
Can I ask you your reaction to the March on Washington going on right now?
Peabody:
As President Kennedy has said on several occasions, the March on Washington by many Americans in support of the omnibus bill, and in support of the equal opportunity for all American citizens, focuses the spotlight of American opinion and attention on an urgent problem which needs solution across the nation. I'm very hopeful that the March goes through without incident, and that the prayerful and dedicated effort, which is being made by so many people, will result in the passage of President Kennedy's bill.
Genest:
Well, that was Governor Endicott Peabody of Massachusetts, as he was interviewed this afternoon at the state house here in Boston. This evening, reporter Ted Mascott, in an exclusive, and I might add, fortunate ERN interview, spoke with the wife of Medgar Evers, the NAACP field secretary who was killed in Mississippi a few months ago. Mrs. Medgar Evers is in Boston attending the 64th annual convention of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, which is the nation's largest predominantly Negro organization. Now to speak with Mrs. Medgar Evers, here is Ted Mascott again.
Mascott:
Mrs. Evers, would you tell us why you could not be in Washington today to join in the march for freedom and jobs?
Evers:
I could not be in the march in Washington today because I had previously obligated myself to being here in Boston with the Elks. My husband, I accepted an award for him. He was chosen elk of the year. And, sometime ago, I had given my word that I would be here. And I could not be at two places at the same time.
Mascott:
What is your reaction to today's events in the nation's capital?
Evers:
From viewing the March and the program on television, that portion that I did get a chance to see, I would say that, it was more than impressive. The large host of people that were there, also the order of the people there, from what I understand, there was no violence whatsoever. And I do feel that this march has served a wonderful purpose.
Mascott:
Do you believe it will have any effect on the pending legislation in Congress?
Evers:
That remains to be seen. I do hope that the March has been a profitable one, as far as that's concerned. At least it has let those in the legislature, and whatnot, all people of this country and the world really know that we are pressing for first class citizenship. That we intend to have it regardless to the cost that any of us have to pay. And, I might add that with the various hues of complexions of people in this march, that it was not totally just a Negro. I think that's quite significant because we are fighting to help make America totally free, and to make it a great democracy. And, it's a job for all of us here, not just the Negroes.
Genest:
That was Mrs. Medgar Evers, the wife of the NAACP field secretary killed just last spring in Mississippi. To learn more about the Elk's convention, Ted Mascott spoke with the Charles P. McLean, director of public relations of that national organization.
Mascott:
Mister McLean, would you explain to us what the 64th annual convention has been doing here in Boston in the past few days?
McLean:
We, as from the Grand Lodge of the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, we choose to come to Boston for our 64th conclave due to the fact of its historic background. And we were here in the year of 1911, were back in 1921, and 1963 was exceptionally significant because we felt that it was our civil rights year.
And to come to the Boston Commons, to stand the shadow of that great American Crispus Attucks, that we, with our demonstration and march in Boston, would have an added impression to the great Washington march. The Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World are the leaders in civil rights, and educational programs. And for the past 64 years, we have been the forefront.
Our grand exalted ruler, which is the honorable Hobson R. Reynolds, from the city of Philadelphia, has built this organization, and we have now over 500,000 in membership. We are definitely happy that we are in Boston. We had a great march, we had over four, five thousand who marched up the Hilton Hotel to Boston Commons where we had our program.
Mrs. Evers accepted the award for her husband, who was a member of our council, a past chief antler, in the state of Mississippi. And he is our Elk of the year, and she accepted his award in his honor, and we've also appropriated 6,000 dollars to the education of her children. And had been mandated by the grand exalted ruler that we set up a foundation to carry on a program that that family will benefit from, because, he certainly was one of God's great noblemen. And he died for the cause of freedom.
And we are in Boston to say, freedom now.
Genest:
Charles P. McLean, director of public relations for the Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World, the nation's largest predominantly Negro organization. Reporter Ted Mascott also spoke with attorney general of Massachusetts, Edward Brooke. Attorney General Brooke is the first Negro to hold such a significant statewide office in Massachusetts. Once again, reporter Ted Mascott.
Mascott:
Attorney General Brooke, would you give us your opinion of the March on Washington today?
Brooke:
The march for freedom in the nation's capital today has dramatized and strengthened the nation's belief in the inherent right of every American to equality and freedom of opportunity. I am certain that all Americans of good will, who were unable to travel to Washington, joined the March in spirit, for they know the significance of this historic occasion, and they share its commitment.
Along with the most responsible religious, business and labor leaders in the United States, I sincerely hope that our Congress, and that every individual citizen, will lend his support, so that we can indeed have a more perfect union. The loss of freedom for one, diminishes the freedom of us all. I pray that love will replace hate, that justice will replace injustice, and that tolerance will replace bigotry in the unending struggle for civil rights and liberties in our country, and throughout the world.
Genest:
Edward Brooke, attorney general of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Well, that's the reaction here in Boston to today's civil rights demonstration in Washington, DC. This is Bob Genest in Boston, returning you now to George Geesey in Washington.

Reporters describe the events of the day

Geesey:
Thank you Bob. A report from one of the affiliates of the Educational Radio Network, which we called upon today to make reports for a little idea of how the feeling was in their city, some distance from the nation's capital. We're gathered now in the studio as we introduced you to these reporters who have come from the field, and are now gathered here swapping stories from the particular site that they were at.
Malcolm Davis, you were at the monument grounds. A big stage erected there for the entertainment of the people as they gathered in the assembly area. What were some of the impressions you gathered?
Davis:
Well George, it was quite fun being up there with many of the celebrities, as they came up to the stage. But I think the most interesting experience that I had there in the whole day, was a man who came in and who had skated apparently from Cleveland on roller skates. And, it was an AMU scout that brought him in for me to talk to, and I had no chance to pre-interview him, he just came on. And then described for us how he had actually skated along the highways without spares, and how on several occasions he'd actually had to duck from cars that were chasing him off the road.
This was rather hilarious because I was so entertained by this, I couldn't really intelligently interview him. But I think he was actually one of the most human persons that I had actually had the chance to talk to all day. And, even the brief moments with the celebrities were somewhat mild in comparison with him. I think he really was the highlight from the Washington Monument.
Geesey:
Do you remember—
Shaw:
Excuse me George. Did he make it on one pair of skates from--
Davis:
Yes, he made it on one pair of skates without having to change one wheel. And he was looking for his wife when I left him. [laughs]
Guylick:
How long did it take him?
Davis:
He left on August the 17th, and I think he had arrived the day before, without a break down.
Hulsen:
Did he bring his skate key with him? [laughs]
Davis:
I don't know if he brought his skate key, but his skates were right around his neck. [laughs]
Geesey:
Who were some of the people Malcolm, that you ran into there? There were a lot of entertainers.
Davis:
Yes. Very briefly we had a few words with Lena Horne, but she was feeling quite sick and was being escorted away, rather hard to talk to.
Geesey:
She only had one word for the audience.
Davis:
That was about it, yes, but I was rather thrilled to talk to her. Josh White was on stage. We had hoped to talk with him, at least Dave had, but I can only think of the man with the roller skates, I'm afraid.
Edwards:
We spoke with Jackie Robinson.
Davis:
Jackie Robinson, yes.
Edwards:
Joan Baez, Peter, Paul and Mary. Various of the--
Davis:
No, no, that's not quite true Dave, you did. [laughs]
Geesey:
And then you had trouble getting all three of them together as I remember.
Edwards:
A good deal of trouble, yes. First it was Peter, then it was Mary
Davis:
The problem there was, yes, because the, they were going to Dave, they said, "Well, can we talk to you later? We have to talk to somebody else?" And they took a long time to convince them that we were part of the same Educational Radio Network.
Edwards:
And eventually they decided we were all British, and talked about why--
Davis:
I think I was the only one that convinced them. [laughs]
Geesey:
I can understand that, the reason for that. Well, Jeff Guylick, once they left Malcolm's area, you were at 19th and Constitution, and what are some of the reflections you have as the parade, people went by you and then came back?
Guylick:
Well one thing that was particularly interesting, my spot was about one block up from the television pool camera, which was on a huge boom overlooking Constitution Avenue. And they came down kind of helter-skelter, sometimes jammed together, sometimes very loosely walking on the streets, zig-zagging, going off on the sidewalk.
I began to notice, after the March got about two thirds of the way through, that all of a sudden, the leaders of each individual group -- whether it was a labor group, or a hospital group, or a religious group -- all of a sudden, as soon as they became conscious of that big television boom up there, and that camera pointing at them, would blow their whistle, or put up their hand and stop. And they would all of a sudden line up in perfect military precision, and they would wait for about five minutes until the group ahead of them got a good distance ahead, so that they would be in perfect view.
And they straightened out all their signs saying, we are from wherever they were from, and, walked in military precision right down under that television camera. And then apparently went off helter-skelter.
Geesey:
I think about this point in the coverage this morning, I asked you what the percentage of Negroes to white persons were, do you remember what that figure was?
Guylick:
I said then that it was about four to one, but this is extremely difficult to estimate.
Geesey:
And of course at that time, we didn't have a very accurate account of just how many people were in the area. We thought there were about 25,000 we heard from Malcolm's area. And then all of a sudden it grew, as additional buses poured people right into the parade route.
Guylick:
These buses all came in at once apparently. At about 9:15, I asked a motorcycle policeman what he thought of it, and he said it's a flop, it won't do anything, it's ridiculous. He had just gotten a report from police headquarters saying there are 7,000 people in Washington. 15 minutes later, the report was 25,000. And a half an hour after that, was 110,000.
Geesey:
I think perhaps he was referring to the usual business district where Washingtonians were told to stay home today and listen to the Educational Radio Network. [ALL LAUGH] At least we hope that's what they told them. We had our own man too at police headquarters, and of course he's not with us right now. He was from out of town, and his, on his way back to his home base. But, without his help, we wouldn't have been able to get these official figures.
Because looking at the crowd, I think you'll admit, it was rather hard to say. There were a 1,000 people, no, maybe it's 2,000, or maybe it's 3,000. Arnie Shaw, you were floating around to several different areas.
Shaw:
Not quite, but some people were. [laughs]
Geesey:
You started out at the press tent, which was set up for purposes of informing the press as to the nature of speeches to be made, and other facts that had to be delivered to the press for transmitting to the public. That was right on the north side of the Lincoln Memorial though. Ran into a little bit of trouble with contact with you--
Shaw:
Just a little bit.
Geesey:
And you moved where?
Shaw:
I took the simple walk diagonally across the grounds in front of the Lincoln Memorial. A walk which would probably take about oh, three, four minutes on a regular day. It took a half hour today. But the most amazing part of the whole thing was the fact that in this jammed crowd, and we were estimating numbers. I would say that the group today could be called a crowd.
And, in this mass of humanity, no one could move. But the minute someone declared that there was an emergency of a sort, someone fell ill, all of a sudden there was an awful lot of room. And as soon as that person was removed, and there wasn't any room again. But I fortunately did get over to our site at the reflecting pool.
Geesey:
Would you like to comment on the number of press people that were with you in this tent? Quite a lot, I believe.
Shaw:
Well, in the press tent itself, they expected 1,500 pressmen. I don't know exactly what the total was in the end, but there must have been 1,500 people in and out of the press tent during the day, that's for sure. And representatives from all over the country, and all over the world. If you wanted to talk to any of them, it was completely impossible.
Hulsen:
Arnie, I wonder, if here might give the Coca-Cola people a plug. They did provide all press with as many Cokes as they could drink, and this number up to 10 in some cases.
Geesey:
Back to Jeff Guylick.
Guylick:
Well, I finally, after much frustration, licked the problem of getting through the crowd. I was coming from my site at 19th Street over to the press tent adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial. Struggling up the steps, across from the reflecting pool, getting nowhere, taking about 20 minutes to get about 20 feet.
And all of a sudden I noticed a group snaking through the crowd, moving quite quickly. And I finally got in with that group, and became one of the freedom marchers who had walked all the way from New York, and had no trouble getting the rest of the way in about two minutes.

Interview of Archie Epps at the Reflecting Pool

Geesey:
Arnie, do you want to continue your story?
Shaw:
Yes, indeed. One fascinating thing was of course the beautiful weather, and in such a park like setting, people decided to relax a little later in the afternoon than the formal part of the program at the Lincoln Memorial. And I had the opportunity of taking a battery powered tape recorder, to the some of these people that were relaxing around the reflecting pool, and caught some of them dangling their feet in the cool waters of the reflecting pool at the Lincoln Memorial.
One of these people is Archie Epps of the Boston unit of the NAACP, and I think you can imagine the surprise of this noted individual in a such a relaxed situation. And I think probably we can reflect on that in hearing a tape of it.
Epps:
Yes, [laughs] I am with my feet in the tidal basin. It was getting rather warm. We've been standing from about one o'clock. It's going quite well with the Boston group that's here. We stopped in Baltimore for breakfast, and then we came here and got here in time enough to join the March.
But I'm quite heartened at the turnout that we got in Boston. You know, we projected a figure of about a 1,000. And we came away well over that. We had 30 buses that left Boston last night.
I'm also quite pleased with the kind of vigorous participation, which one senses in coming here, ‘cause it's been my thought all along that the march was a chance to show that the isolated demonstrations in different cities and states had a common denominator to them, which was a general discontent shared by Negroes and their allies. Now that I expected that the March on Washington would reflect this.
I think it has, and if you notice, the parts of the speeches say, Shuttlesworth's speech, the minister from Birmingham, Alabama, where you get the vigorous request for direct action. This is where you got the response from the audience. I think you can run a checklist on the responses and see what the mood of the people is.
And I think that if the Congress doesn't go ahead with this bill, we're gonna be in trouble. We'll see a loss of faith by Negro citizens in the Congress, in the processes of social change, which have been a part of the democratic process here.
Shaw:
I think that we can probably see that a man relaxing by the reflecting pool is also concentrating at the same time. That was Archie Epps, of the Boston unit of the NAACP, who I talk to on a mobile unit this afternoon.

Reporters relate further observations of the March

Geesey:
Now judging by some of the reports that we had at that time, a lot of people had weary feet, and were as you said, dangling them into the pool.
Shaw:
Indeed, and by that time also the signs that were being used earlier in the day is advertisement for a cause, were being, the placards were being removed and they were being used as canes for hovers back to buses.
Geesey:
Just the wooden stick you mean?
Shaw:
Right.
Geesey:
Right. Dave Edwards, you were right up at the Lincoln Memorial, what did you see?
Edwards:
I saw a surprising number of celebrities, as I guess we call them today. A good many political figures, especially senators of whom there were perhaps twenty-five. And a number other members of the administration, and sort of semi-retired public officials like Norman Thomas.
I, there were also a good many movie stars. We had a very interesting interview with Marlon Brando, in which he announced for the first time, plans that were born this morning to organize movement to forbid the use of movies made by the participating actors in segregated movie theaters. There was a good deal of cooperation on the part of many of these people.
ERN talked with Senator Humphrey, Sophie Williams, and a number of other noted people. And following ERN's precedent good many of the other networks, and other correspondents seized upon these people and spent a good deal of time asking them various questions about the proceedings. It was one of the most notable things about the demonstration was the significant extent to which these public figures were prepared to participate.

Interview of Dick Gregory at the March

Geesey:
Well the only girl sitting here around this table, the only one I can remember calling on the day, the only one brave enough, I guess to put herself out with the remote equipment and the hot sun was Cal Nossiter. I wonder if you could give us a little idea of the things you saw right at the corner of the reflecting pool.
Nossiter:
Well George, I think the overwhelming impression I have is one of the pervasiveness of the non-violent aspect of this really massive demonstration. And it made the entire thing so exceedingly peaceable. And to me, the amazing combination of absolutely implacable determination, and absolutely, “we shall not be moved” has become a more than a song at this point.
And this combination of implacable militancy and determine non-violence was so evident in a conversation I had with Dick Gregory, and I think to explain it, would be superfluous, let's hear the tape. Here at the conclusion of the March, we're fortunate to run into Dick Gregory, who recently out of jail. What are your plans in the near future Mister Gregory?
Gregory:
Stay at the nightclubs is always my plan. Play it by ear, you never know what's gonna happen from day to day though.
Nossiter:
I gather that your commitment is more to the movement than to the nightclubs at the moment?
Gregory:
Oh, my commitment is more true to the movement than to my own family.
Nossiter:
Oh I'm sure of that, and it's most admirable. One thing that has occurred to me about your particular stand is having heard a broadcast that you did in Birmingham. I'm not even sure you were aware it was being broadcast. It was the first time I had heard the expression “us” as used by you so conclusively and exclusively, I wonder how deeply you mean this?
Gregory:
Very much so. I just made a statement a little while ago that if the railroads went on strike today, and all of us had to stay in town, we would call this place Us-ington instead of Washington.
Nossiter:
But who is us? I really want to know.
Gregory:
Us, everybody that's with this cause.
Nossiter:
Oh, black and white cause.
Gregory:
Everybody just with this cause, black and white cause, yeah.
Nossiter:
That was really bother me a little. I mean, we can't stand any more alienation, we've had enough of it.
Gregory:
Well, there's been so any bigots that have claimed to be Americans, I figured we'd get us another word going, and get rid of the fraud phonies.
Nossiter:
It's pretty good when as long as we can be in it together.
Gregory:
Oh yes, definitely.
Nossiter:
Tell me, do you think the March, as such, is going to have a really marked effect right away on the Congress, on the people?
Gregory:
Well, the Congress don't count to me, really. This March will have an effect as long as there's a man alive on the face of the the earth, this day will always be remembered.
Nossiter:
I believe you. But, I do wonder, like people in Gadsden, Alabama and Greenwood, Mississippi, the white people, do you think this is gonna move them?
Gregory:
Definitely. Definitely.
Nossiter:
I hope you're right. Now, a lot of the people in the entertainment business who were here today were very strong on where they stand. This of course is as you certainly know is an area where so much can be done. Do you think at this point they are ready to move and say, "Look, we're not gonna make movies that we show in segregated theaters. Look, we are not going to be in this show unless you feel a couple of parts with Negroes." Do you think that this is going to happen?
Gregory:
I don't know. I could never think the way I think another man would think, unless they have shown open commitments one way or the other. Because a man can be touched with a cause in one area, do not mean he would look right around the corner and do it on the other areas. I think this is something we have to wait and find out what their decision's gonna be on this.
Ferguson:
Dick, it was said that just recently you stopped playing and got serious. What do we have to say about that?
Gregory:
It's like saying I just recently I became a Negro. I've been a Negro all my life, and I've been serious all my life, but when I go out to a nightclub floor, I'm in the capacity of the entertainer. The press had always picked up statements I made in a nightclub, and they never picked up statements I made in the street or on the corner, and had they been doing this, they would've found I have played with this problem since I was five years old.
Nossiter:
Where do you go to work next?
Gregory:
I mean, I'm in L.A. now, I just took the night off to fly in here.
Nossiter:
Right. Thank you very much.
Gregory:
Thank you, thank you, my pleasure. Bye-bye.
Geesey:
Cal, I think we better point out that the other person joining you was Andy Ferguson from Boston.
Nossiter:
Yes, with whom I was working at that point.

Closing thoughts to end the panel discussion

Geesey:
Another person from Boston, and the only person remaining here to be introduced again, is Al Hulsen. Where were you Al?
Hulsen:
George, I spent most of the day at the Lincoln Memorial following the official ceremonies. Earlier in the day I was at the ellipse, to not belabor the point, I'd like to say that this certainly was the largest crowd I've ever seen, but it was one that was always in control.
I thought the speakers too were generally calm in their tone. And I think everyone would agree that the Reverend Martin Luther King certainly got the most response. He had the crowd leave very encouraged.
Geesey:
In responses to the pledge that was given, was also very strong. It's hard for me to sit here and talk with you because every time I heard from you today, there was music in the background, just like the music we're hearing in a moment. The song is We Shall Overcome.
[SONG PLAYS]
Geesey:
And of course what we're hearing now is a recording made not today, but at Sanders Theater in your home area. I think all of us are in agreement that today's March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was successful. That it was well conducted, it was very orderly, and it was a good procession from the very time they assembled on the grounds of the Washington Monument, is where they ended up for the speeches, and the program this afternoon on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
And as we heard later this evening, after many of the top leaders spoke with the President of the United States, they felt that they had had a successful day. For the past half hour, we've been talking with some of the ERN reporters, who've met here and joined the Washington staff of WAMU-FM to present this comprehensive coverage, which has been carried uninterrupted since nine o'clock this morning.
Most of these fellows and the one woman who was with us, are very tired, and we thank them for taking a little bit more of a day to be awake and to be alert, and to give us a report on what they've done. This is George Geesey reporting from Washington.
[SONG PLAYS]
END AUDIO
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