They Were There

The 17 people at the heart of TIME’s One Dream project spoke, sang, organized, rallied, led and inspired at the March on Washington. Portraits by Marco Grob for TIME

Bob
Adelman

Bob Adelman
Bob Adelman

© Bob Adelman

During the civil rights movement, Adelman worked as a volunteer photographer for the Congress of Racial Equality and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He captured some of the most iconic scenes from the struggle for racial equality, including pictures taken at the March on Washington and the 1963 protests that engulfed Birmingham, Ala. Images of the protests and violence helped galvanize support for civil rights among those living outside the Deep South.

Adelman has had a long career as a professional photographer. His photographs have appeared on the covers of many magazines, including TIME, LIFE, Esquire, Newsweek and the New York Times Magazine.

Robert
Avery

Robert Avery

Avery was 15 when he and two friends, ages 17 and 18, hitchhiked from Gadsden, Ala., to the nation’s capitol for the March on Washington. They arrived a week early, connected with march organizers, and were assigned to work at an office making signs and giving interviews to journalists who wanted to meet the now famous Alabama boys who had hitchhiked their way to Washington. Their visitors included Martin Luther King Jr. himself; shortly before the march, King entered the office where Avery was working and said he had met the boys’ parents at a civil rights event in Gadsden and promised that he would check in on their sons in Washington.

Avery is a member of the Gadsden city council.

Joan
Baez

Joan Baez
Joan Baez

Rowland Scherman

Baez first heard Martin Luther King Jr. speak when she was a high school student in California. His message of nonviolence resonated with Baez, who was raised a Quaker and whose pacifist views later made her a prominent voice in the movement to end the war in Vietnam. By the early 1960s, Baez had developed a friendship with King, traveling with him to civil rights demonstrations and giving concerts on the campuses of black colleges in the South. In 1966, Baez and King escorted black children to a recently desegregated school in Grenada, Miss. The effort drew mobs of angry white Southerners. Baez’s rendition of “We Shall Overcome” at the March on Washington was one of the event’s most memorable moments.

Winner of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, Baez has been recording and performing for more than five decades and has lent her voice to humanitarian causes around the world.

Harry
Belafonte

Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte

Rowland Scherman

Belafonte was 26 years old when Martin Luther King Jr., then 24, called to ask the star to use his celebrity in the service of the civil rights movement. Belafonte, a veteran of World War II and a singer with a thriving career, became one of the most prominent artists working for the cause. He helped organize the “cultural contingent” that attended the March on Washington to raise the event’s visibility and chartered a plane from Los Angeles to Washington to transport celebrities, including Marlon Brando, Burt Lancaster and Charlton Heston.

A longtime activist and humanitarian, Belafonte recently took part in protests against the “stand your ground” laws in Florida after the George Zimmerman verdict.

Julian
Bond

Julian Bond
Julian Bond

Steve Schapiro — Corbis

Bond was one of a handful of students to study philosophy under Martin Luther King Jr. at Morehouse College. He was a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and served as its communications director. At the March on Washington, Bond collected transcripts of speeches and distributed them to the media.

Bond served in the Georgia state legislature for 20 years and was the NAACP’s chairman of the board from 1998 to 2010.

Doris
Derby

Doris Derby
Doris Derby

Danny Lyon—Magnum

Derby joined an NAACP youth chapter when she was 16. Later, as a young teacher, she worked with civil rights groups in Georgia and Mississippi, and once single-handedly desegregated an Episcopalian church by being the only black person in attendance for Sunday services. (The following week, she was locked out.) Derby also raised money to help free jailed student protesters and worked with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to help organize the March on Washington.

Derby was the founding director of the Office of African-American Student Services and Programs at Georgia State University. She retired in 2012.

Rachelle
Horowitz

Rachelle Horowitz

A young Brooklyn native without a driver’s license, Horowitz laughed when Bayard Rustin, organizer of the March on Washington, asked her to be the event’s transportation director. Horowitz spent countless days in the spring and summer of 1963 working at the march’s headquarters on 130th Street in Harlem. She chartered buses, trains and planes, and got the New York City subway system to alter its schedule to accommodate the hordes of residents who would use the subway to reach bus-pickup locations on their way to Washington.

Horowitz, now retired, served as the political director for the American Federation of Teachers.

Clarence B.
Jones

Clarence B. Jones
Clarence B. Jones

Ernst Haas—Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Jones was living in Altadena, Calif., and looking forward to a career as an entertainment lawyer when Martin Luther King Jr. knocked on his door in 1960 to ask the young attorney to work for the civil rights cause. (A judge who knew Jones had recommended him.) Jones resisted at first, but after hearing King give a sermon at a church two days later, he agreed to join the team. Jones eventually became a speechwriter for King and worked as his personal lawyer until the civil rights leader was assassinated in 1968.

Jones is a visiting professor at the University of San Francisco and the author of Behind the Dream: The Making of the Speech That Transformed a Nation.

John
Lewis

John Lewis
John Lewis

© Bob Adelman

Lewis was 23 when he was selected to be a featured speaker at the March on Washington. He was arrested scores of times during the civil rights movement and was badly beaten during a 1961 freedom ride protesting the segregation of interstate buses and at a 1965 march in Selma, Ala. Both events would prove to be turning points in the struggle for racial equality. At the time of the March on Washington, Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and today is the only living member of the Big Six, a group of influential 1960s civil rights leaders who planned and executed the march.

Lewis represents Georgia's 5th Congressional District in the House of Representatives and is a member of the House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee.

Nan
Orrock

Nan Orrock

Raised in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in the 1950s, Orrock grew up in a conservative, segregated environment and accepted racial inequality as a fact of life. That changed in the summer of 1963, when Orrock, a college student, moved to Washington to take a summer job as a typist. Her co-workers included white liberals and African Americans who invited her to attend the March on Washington. Orrock was transformed by the event and went on to work in the civil rights movement full time, including at the office of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in Atlanta.

Since 1987, Orrock, a Democrat, has served as a representative in the Georgia state legislature.

Rachel
Robinson

Rachel Robinson
Rachel Robinson

Ted Russell—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images

Robinson and her husband Jackie, who broke Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947, were active members of the NAACP, one of several civil rights groups that came together at the March on Washington. The Robinsons held fundraisers at their Connecticut home to raise money for the march and other needs of the movement. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. joined them for a jazz concert in their backyard. The Robinsons attended the March on Washington with their children, who were then 11, 13 and 15.

Robinson is the founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides college scholarships to disadvantaged students of color.

Jerome
Smith

Jerome Smith
Jerome Smith

© Steve Schapiro

Smith committed his first act of civil disobedience as a young boy, when he removed a divider separating blacks and whites on a New Orleans bus. He became a field organizer for the Congress of Racial Equality and a freedom rider, protesting the segregation of interstate buses. In 1963, Smith was invited to Robert Kennedy’s New York City apartment with James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and others to discuss civil rights; he confronted Kennedy—shocking the other attendees—saying the White House’s lack of commitment to civil rights sickened him. Kennedy later said that young activists motivated him to push harder for federal laws for racial equality.

In recent years, Smith has worked with disadvantaged youth in New Orleans.

Hank
Thomas

Hank Thomas
Hank Thomas

Joseph Postiglione—Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Thomas never planned to be a member of the original group of 13 freedom riders, black and white protesters who sat together on segregated buses driven into the Deep South in 1961. But his roommate, who had secured a spot in advance, fell ill days before the freedom rides were to begin. Thomas took his place, and was nearly killed when a white mob in Anniston, Ala., attacked and firebombed a bus carrying freedom riders. Thomas was a marshal at the March on Washington, one of a group of young men assigned to be on the lookout for anyone who might try to disrupt the event.

Thomas served in Vietnam and is a businessman living in Atlanta.

Marcus
Garvey Wood

Marcus Garvey Wood
Marcus Garvey Wood

Courtesy of Marcus Wood

Before Martin Luther King Jr. earned his doctorate from Boston University, he earned a bachelor’s degree in divinity at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa., in 1951. Wood was one of King’s classmates at Crozer, where everyone knew the young Baptist preacher as Mike.

Wood has been a pastor at Providence Baptist Church in Baltimore since 1952.

Maxine Allen
Johnson Wood

Maxine Allen Johnson Wood
Maxine Allen Johnson Wood

Courtesy of Maxine Wood

Twenty years old at the time of the March on Washington, Wood had just graduated from college and was planning to become a high school teacher. She heard about the march and hopped a bus from Connecticut, where she had been visiting relatives, to Baltimore so she could get to Washington on time.

Wood is the chief operating officer for a high school reform model at Johns Hopkins University.

Peter
Yarrow

Peter Yarrow
Peter Yarrow

Rowland Scherman

One-third of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary, Yarrow is the songwriter behind “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and “Light One Candle.” He grew up in New York City and was committed to social justice from an early age. He and his cohort were invited by Harry Belafonte to sing at the March on Washington, where the group performed its covers of “If I Had a Hammer,” by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” by Bob Dylan.

Yarrow is the founder of Operation Respect, an organization committed to reducing school violence and bullying, and continues to pursue activism and advocacy through music.

Bob
Zellner

Bob Zellner
Bob Zellner

Danny Lyon—Magnum

The son and grandson of Alabama Klansmen, Zellner interviewed Martin Luther King Jr. as part of a college sociology course and later joined the civil rights movement full time. He was the first white Southerner to serve as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was badly beaten and nearly blinded following an SNCC meeting in McComb, Miss. Zellner’s activism continues today: in April, he was arrested while participating in an NAACP protest against laws restricting voting in North Carolina.

Zellner is the author of The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement.

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