Natchez resident recalls inspiring involvement in famous Civil Rights march on Washington, D.C.

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 1, 2001

Nearly 40 years ago, Arthur Brown of Natchez was inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

At the time, Brown was serving as a marshal at the Civil Rights march on Washington. Next week he will share that inspiration with his local reading club, which focuses on African-American literature.

For the Jan. 3 meeting, the group decided &uot;we would make it a celebration of (Martin Luther) King,&uot; Brown said.

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The Dart found Brown at the Lamar Street house of Mary Johnson on Sunday recalling some of his memories by searching the Internet.

&uot;It was one of the most dramatic things I can remember attending,&uot; Brown said about the 1963 march on Washington. &uot;It was very satisfying to see so many blacks gathered from all over the country.&uot;

Brown, who is the uncle of Natchez attorney Everett Sanders, moved to Natchez five years ago.

A native of North Carolina, he had moved to New York City when he was 16-years-old. It was while working as a pyschotherapist in New York that Brown became active in the Urban League, an African-American civil rights organization.

It was his involvement with the Urban League that gave him the opportunity to volunteer as a marshal for that march on Washington. During the march, the marshals walked among the marchers to help them cope with any threats of hostility in a nonviolent way, Brown said.

But contrary to what was expected, the marchers did not have any need for the marshals. &uot;There were no confrontations at all,&uot; Brown said.

About 200,000 African-Americans attended the march, which also included a number of speakers and entertainers. But for Brown the highlight of the day was hearing Martin Luther King give his famous speech titled &uot;We Have a Dream.&uot;

&uot;It sort of put together for me and a lot of other people a direction to go in&uot; in dealing with such segregation and lack of opportunities, Brown said. &uot;It really served as a way of kind of organizing (us) around someone and some sort of philosophy.&uot;

During that time, African-Americans had many different ideas on how to deal with the issues.

&uot;(Martin Luther) King for me presented the group that I felt had the most validity,&uot; Brown said.

The march on Washington was a way of adding &uot;sensitivity&uot; to the problem and of bringing forth &uot;what you believed in (and) what you thought should happen,&uot; Brown said.

Brown also has fond memories of the people who attended the march and the &uot;family reunion&uot; atmosphere in Washington, D.C., that day.