[The march was Nan Grogan Orrock's introduction to the civil rights movement. In 1963, just shy of her 20th birthday, she lived with her aunt in Washington where she worked as a clerk for the federal government. Orrock worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in 1964 and the Southern Student Organizing Committee (SNCC) in 1965-66. She served in the Georgia Statehouse, starting in 1987 and, in 2007, she was elected to the Georgia state Senate. Here are portions from her story, which she told to Yahoo News this week:]
I was at the end of the reflecting pool, closest to the Lincoln Memorial. The massive, massive size of the march was incredible. It was a living thing. It was like a glacier moving down the avenue.
I was nervous because there were TV cameras and [there was] a chance I would end up on TV. That made me uncomfortable because I had not told my family what I was doing. I had certainly not told my aunt. I knew better than to tell her that I was going to join that march. I told her I had a date that afternoon. The date I had was a date with history.
Overwhelmingly, I realized, as a white Southerner, I had been mis-educated. As smart as I thought I was, I really had failed to understand the enormity of racial discrimination in the country and the intensity of a movement to topple the color bar. I had been raised in all-white schools where we were taught that America was the land of the free and home of the brave, and that we were a democracy and a wonderful place. What was completely left out in that upbringing was any understanding of the way that African-American people had been treated and the enormity of it and the sordid, sordid history.
And, out of that, I came away knowing I was going to be part of this fight. You could describe it as being born again. My sense of fairness and justice were really activated that day.
Years later, my mother wrote me a letter — years later because they were very disapproving when I finally broke down and told them what I had done — saying, "I just want you to know, as your mother, that I am proud that you understood at such a young age what Dr. King was trying to do and that you decided to take a stand. I'm very, very proud of you." It was quite a moving thing, needless to say, because they had really struggled to understand what on Earth I was doing with my life.
For her to have that kind of turn around, as Southern whites, to understand what I was doing, was quite significant.
See The March on
Washington for background & more information.
Copyright © Nan Grogan, 2013.