the lesson is never stop

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The March on Washington & it’s legacy…

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3000 miles to history

“Some people pooh-poohed the idea. They didn’t think it was going to work. They thought there was going to be a lot of violence, and so our committee met every weekand we said, O.K., what do we need to move this really large group of people from all over, to bring them in? We needed public relations. We needed to have a medical corps of nurses and doctors on hand. We needed to have Porta-Pottys, arrange transportation. Once we had charter buses, regular buses coming in—what’s going to happen to those? Where are people going to park?”

In August 1963, a little-known filmmaker named Haskell Wexler traveled by bus from San Francisco to the March on Washington. His documentary of the journey, 1965’s The Bus, features footage from the trip and the march. Here, TIME presents an exclusive short edit of the film. In the years since he made The Bus, Wexler has won two Oscars for cinematography (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?Bound for Glory) and has shot dozens of other movies, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

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Harry Belafonte

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As a kid, there was not much I could aspire to, because the achievement of black people in spaces of power and rule and governance was not that evident, and therefore we were diminished in the way we thought we could access power and be part of the American fabric. So we who came back from this war having expectations and finding that there were none to be harvested were put upon to make a decision. We could accept the status quo as it was beginning to reveal itself with these oppressive laws still in place. Or, as had begun to appear on the horizon, stimulated by something Mahatma Gandhi of India had done, we could start this quest for social change by confronting the state a little differently. Let’s do it nonviolently, let’s use passive thinking applied to aggressive ideas, and perhaps we could overthrow the oppression by making it morally unacceptable.”

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 The bus was on fire and was filling up with smoke. -Hank Thomas

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“Separate, but equal” drinking fountains in North Carolina, photographed by Elliott Erwitt in 1950.

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“When I first met Dr. King, I was 16, and he came to speak at our high school gathering. They have kids from all over the country come as representatives of their part of the country. So there were a couple hundred of us, and we would meet in groups and discuss politics, and we were discussingnonviolence because it was a Quaker-based group. And then Dr. King came and spoke, and I was just stunned, because this man was doing what we had talked about. They had just started the more publicly seen and known boycotts in Montgomery, and I just wept through the whole thing, because it made something real to me. It was real, but I hadn’t seen an example of it in my daily life, and there it was.”

Joan Boaz

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 Boaz first heard Martin Luther King Jr. speak when she was a high school student in California. His message of nonviolence resonated with Baez, who was raised a Quaker and whose pacifist views later made her a prominent voice in the movement to end the war in Vietnam. By the early 1960s, Baez had developed a friendship with King, traveling with him to civil rights demonstrations and giving concerts on the campuses of black colleges in the South. In 1966, Baez and King escorted black children to a recently desegregated school in Grenada, Miss. The effort drew mobs of angry white Southerners. Baez’s rendition of “We Shall Overcome” at the March on Washington was one of the event’s most memorable moments.

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Winner of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007, Baez has been recording and performing for more than five decades and has lent her voice to humanitarian causes around the world.

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Peter Yarrow

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One third of the folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary, Yarrow is the songwriter behind “Puff, the Magic Dragon” and “Light One Candle.” He grew up in New York City and was committed to social justice from an early age. He and his cohort were invited by Harry Belafonte to sing at the March on Washington, where the group performed its covers of “If I Had a Hammer,” by Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, and “Blowin’ in the Wind,” by Bob Dylan.

Yarrow is the founder of Operation Respect, an organization committed to reducing school violence and bullying, and continues to pursue activism and advocacy through music.

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Here Andrew Young & Julian Bond among the crowd singing “We Shall Overcome”

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Bond was one of a handful of students to study philosophy under Martin Luther King Jr. at Morehouse College. He was a co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and served as its communications director. At the March on Washington, Bond collected transcripts of speeches and distributed them to the media.

Bond served in the Georgia state legislature for 20 years and was the NAACP’s chairman of the board from 1998 to 2010.

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Here Lena Horne at the March, August 28, 1963

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Poitier, Belafonte, Heston–and Lincoln at the March

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Rachelle Horowitz

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A young Brooklyn native without a drivers license, Horowitz laughed when Bayard Rustin, organizer of the March on Washington, asked her to be the event’s transportation director. Horowitz spent countless days in the spring and summer of 1963 working at the march’s headquarters on 130th Street in Harlem. She chartered buses, trains and planes, and got the New York City subway system to alter its schedule to accommodate the hordes of residents who would use the subway to reach bus-pickup locations on their way to Washington.

Horowitz, now retired, served as the political director for the American Federation of Teachers

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Jon Lewis was 23 when he was selected to be a featured speaker at the March on Washington. He was arrested scores of times during the civil rights movement and was badly beaten during a 1961 freedom ride protesting the segregation of interstate buses and at a 1965 march in Selma, Ala. Both events would prove to be turning points in the struggle for racial equality. At the time of the March on Washington, Lewis was chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and today is the only living member of the Big Six, a group of influential 1960s civil rights leaders who planned and executed the march.

Lewis represents Georgia’s 5th Congressional District in the House of Representatives and is a member of the House’s powerful Ways and Means Committee.

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Rachel Robinson

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Robinson and her husband Jackie, who broke Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947, were active members of the NAACP, one of several civil rights groups that came together at the March on Washington. The Robinsons held fundraisers at their Connecticut home to raise money for the march and other needs of the movement. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. joined them for a jazz concert in their backyard. The Robinsons attended the March on Washington with their children, who were then 11, 13 and 15.

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Jackie with his son at the March on Washington

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Rachel Robinson is the founder of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which provides college scholarships to disadvantaged students of color.

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” Tell them the Dream “

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addressing crowd of dem

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Martin Luther King

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“We shall overcome”

“When we were going to the March on Washington, we didn’t know whether it was going to be violent, and we didn’t know if it was going to be a place where fear pervaded. The reality was, it was quite the opposite. Joyful doesn’t really describe it for me. It was like the physicalization of love. It was ecstatic perhaps, but it was not giddy and silly or ‘Let’s have a good time.’ It was a far deeper kind of joy. It went beyond joy. It was hard to describe, but it was the antithesis of fear, and it propelled us all into another channel in our lives.”

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” The march on Selma “

Less than three weeks after the peaceful, triumphant March on Washington, four Ku Klux Klan members planted a box of dynamite under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. The explosion that ripped through the building on Sept. 15, 1963, killed four young black girls—Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Addie Mae Collins (all 14 years old) and Denise McNair (11)—and injured 22 others, including Addie’s younger sister Sarah. Frank Dandridge’s photo of 12-year-old Sarah, with bandages covering her eyes, was a grim reminder that murderous opposition to the civil rights struggle remained.

Sarah Collins Rudolph, who never regained sight in her left eye and lives with her husband George not far from Birmingham, is still fighting for restitution for medical expenses and suffering at the hands of the Klan.

“It’s just such an awful, awful shame,” she says, “that it took that much violence for some people to finally wake up to what was happening in their own country.”

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“The lesson is never stop”

In many ways, the March on Washington was a culmination of actions from Dec. 1, 1955, to Aug. 28, 1963. We were on the dawn of a new day, and it had taken daylight a long time to come.

The essence of Dr. King’s speech was not the dream; it was the broken promise.

Dr. King said, Here we are a hundred years after 1863, and in Lincoln’s majestic shadows we stand. You promised, Congress, with the 13th and 14th Amendments, you promised. Yet here we stand today, with a broken promise, a “bounced check, marked insufficient funds.” We had been promised the accommodations of full citizenship, the right to vote. We had been promised equal protection under the law and equal opportunity. Yet in our quest for citizenship, the promise was broken.

The spirit at the march was that we were winning, and we were doing it together—blacks, whites—we were a multiracial social-justice coalition. That was before we had the public accommodation and before we had the right to vote, but those victories were in sight.

We had this sense that we were winning; we were rising up. We had overcome fear. That speech was an early indication that if we keep marching, if we keep pushing, we’re going to win this battle. It was a dawn-to-daylight speech, and we won.

Now we have the sense that we’re at dusk moving toward midnight. One thing we can learn from Dr. King is that the forces of equal protection should neither sleep nor slumber. We got the right to vote in 1865 after 200 years of slavery. By 1965 we got the Voting Rights Act, but in 2013 they eviscerated it. The struggle for democracy and equal protection will never be a past-tense discussion. There’s always a need for equal protection.

We’ve got to keep marching.