In this special encore broadcast Bill Moyers and Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) meet to share experiences and revelations about the momentous March on Washington both attended 50 years ago.
Their discussion takes them to the spot in front of the Lincoln Memorial where Lewis, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, Roy Wilkins, and others famously spoke about freedom and justice, creating critical momentum for both the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act. While there, Moyers and Lewis attract the attention of schoolchildren, and conduct a spontaneous living history lesson.
The March on Washington is largely remembered for King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The 23-year-old Lewis, newly named to lead the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was the youngest of the featured speakers, but among the most defiant.
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Now a 14-term congressman from Georgia, Lewis shares new insight into how the event unfolded — including last-minute conflicts over his own manuscript. He also discusses the continuing challenges to racial and economic equality, and his unwavering dedication to nonviolence and brotherly love as a means toward a more just end — even when facing inevitable violence and brutality.
“To look out and see the best of America convinced me more than anything else that this is the product, this is the work of the movement,” Lewis tells Bill. “Sometimes you have to not just dream about what could be — you get out and push and you pull and you preach. And you create a climate and environment to get those in high places, to get men and women of good will in power to act.”
Threading rarely-seen documentary footage into their conversation, Bill — who was deputy director of the newly-created Peace Corps at the time — also shares his own memories of the day. He concludes with an essay about how the goal of equal rights and opportunities for all Americans — so championed at the March on Washington — continues to elude us.
“But for a few hours that day,” Bill says, “we could imagine what this country might yet become.”