Follow The Republic:
Patricia Kyle was part of a historical moment in August 1963. At the time she was living in Columbus and serving as director of religious education at First United Methodist Church.
On or about Aug. 27 of that year she boarded a Greyhound bus in Indianapolis and rode for 18 hours to Washington, D.C. The next day she and 200,000-plus others marched on Washington.
The day was pivotal in the history of civil rights in this country because of the peaceful but determined demeanor of the huge crowd. The gathering carpeted the area around the basin between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial.
But it was what happened on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that made the day so historic. From those steps the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his inspirational “I Have a Dream” speech. Portions from that litany of aspirations are still etched in the memory of most Americans. Even children who were not born at the time can recite them flawlessly.
Today, the speech is regarded as one of the most inspirational ever given anywhere.
Judging by news reports that appeared in The Columbus Evening Republican in the days following the march — including an eyewitness account by Kyle — King’s speech went unnoticed.
I came across stories about the march while leafing through the microfilmed pages of The Evening Republican for August 1963. The first one that got my attention was a Page One item about Kyle’s plan to participate in the march. The story also mentioned two others with ties to the Columbus area who planned to attend: the Rev. Harold Ping, pastor of a Methodist Church in Shelbyville who had grown up in the Petersville area, and the Rev. Henry Oakes Jr., pastor of a Methodist Church in Nashville.
Other stories appeared in the days leading up to Aug. 27, national wire stories that reflected concern about the potential for violence given the anticipated size of the crowd and their cause. In the early 1960s, America was a deeply divided nation on the issue of equal rights for black people.
The Evening Republican was able to carry wire stories on the day of the march. One of them appeared on Page One and centered on a black woman who, on a bad leg, limped to the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and prayed for peace. Her prayers were answered, but there was no mention in the story of King and his “I Have a Dream” speech.
On the day after the march, The Evening Republican headline writer used the words “Civil Rights March Is Called ‘Huge Success’” over a United Press International wire story about the event. The story recounted much of what had happened the previous day and listed some of the featured speakers, including Floyd McKissick, the chairman of Congress for Racial Equality, and A. Phillip Randolph, a leader in the union movement. It quoted comments by black expatriate Josephine Baker who had flown into Washington from her home in Paris.
Nowhere in the story was there any mention of King’s speech. There wasn’t even a report that he had spoken.
Kyle had returned to Columbus and on the day after the march and spoke to John Rutherford, an Evening Republican reporter, about her impressions. She remarked that the day had “made me a witness to something in which I believe” and added that she was also impressed by the number of white clergymen and church lay leaders who had taken to the streets with their black brethren. Nowhere in the story did she talk about King or his speech.
The march was the subject of a short editorial on The Evening Republican’s Opinion Page two days later. It expressed relief that there had been no violence, praised the marchers for demonstrating peacefully and suggested that the event could have an effect on legislators who were in the process of debating a sweeping civil rights bill. Again, King’s speech went unmentioned.
I only went through the pages of The Evening Republican in my search for stories about the march and King’s speech. The latter could have been reported in other newspapers, but since the UPI stories I came across had no mention, I suspect that other national media also missed the importance of what he said.
That suspicion was reinforced when I came across another story in The Evening Republican written by UPI entertainment critic Rick DuBrow. The headline said, “March Coverage Quite Inadequate.”
DuBrow blasted the television networks for fragmented coverage of the march. NBC was castigated for blotting out live reports of the largest assemblage in the history of the nation’s capital so that it could air game shows “Concentration,” “Your First Impression” and “Truth or Consequences.” CBS drew fire for “spending too much time listening to its own correspondents.”
Ironically, DuBrow wrote the entire column about poor coverage of this major event but also failed to mention that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered a speech that arguably changed the course of history.
Harry McCawley is associate editor of The Republic. He can be reached by phone at 379-5620 or email at email@example.com.
Think your friends should see this? Share it with them!
All comments are moderated before posting.
View our commenting guidelines and FAQ's here.
All content copyright ©2013 The Republic, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.