The twenty-five thousand Americans who converged upon Montgomery on March 25 surely did not represent the “best” of America in terms of wealth, status or power, but —in the words of Bayard Rustin—”all the best in America” was there. No one who went through that exhilarating day will ever forget it. It was the most powerful, confident, and dramatic civil rights confrontation ever held in America. If the March on Washington may be likened to a declaration of purpose on the part of the American Negro, the March on Montgomery was his declaration that henceforth he will walk without fear. That this confrontation took place in the heart of the unreconstructed South only underscored its drama.
Coming from New York in a hastily arranged flight, one first became aware of the approaching tension upon reaching the comparatively moderate city of Atlanta. There, waiting for the Montgomery plane connection, one encountered the first curious and hostile stares; more important, there were the people who, like oneself, were Montgomery bound. It was the most natural thing to approach them, introduce oneself, and exchange notes. Some were veterans of the movement (SNCC, Catholic Interracial Youth Council, etc.) ; others, like myself, were veterans of past movements and peripheral participants in this one; still others (most of the nuns and clerics) were experiencing the excitement of their first “witnessing” and mass action....
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