*Joyce Ladner was a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee when she attended the March on Washington in 1963.
On Monday, she joined fellow march participants Clayborne Carson, Professor of History at Stanford University; Clarence Jones, who helped Dr. Martin Luther King draft his “I Have a Dream” speech; former CBS News anchor Roger Mudd and filmmaker John Akomfrah to discuss their upcoming PBS documentary “The March” at the Television Critics Association press tour.
“I don’t know how many people have seen the speech in the condition you’re going to see it in in this film,” Akomfrah told the gathered journalists in Beverly Hills. “I think lots of people have seen it online, but we made sure that we found just about the best 35mm copy of it. So for the first time, people will actually hear and see this man, Dr. Martin Luther King, make that speech [through this new footage]. For me, that was invaluable.”
As previously reported, the five-part web series explores the story behind the event as remembered through key participants – from the famous faces to the foot soldiers…like Joyce Ladner.
“In 1963, I was a junior at Tougaloo College in Mississippi,” said Ladner. “I lived in ground zero for the movement. Mississippi was about as dangerous a place as one could be.”
Ladner said each civil rights group was asked by organizers of the March to send two reps to the organizational meeting in New York. “In the end, only CORE and SNCC, the two most radical, did so,” said Ladner, who was among them.
“The March achieved a lot in nationalizing our struggle,” she said. “It removed it from the regional Southern base to making it a national struggle for all Americans. It cut across racial lines in a large way for the first time. Those were my expectations and I think they were fully realized. Never before had we built such a huge base of support, such a large coalition of organizations and individuals.”
After the panel, we spoke to the 69-year-old activist about the current civil rights movement swelling around Trayvon Martin, and whether or not she sees the slain teen as this generation’s Emmitt Till. Listen below.
PBS announced today that Denzel Washington will narrate the series, airing Aug. 27, a day after the 50th anniversary of the march.