Josephine Washington stayed home to rest from her job at a Washington hotel and let her children participate in the 1963 March on Washington, hoping someday they "all would be able to make a living for themselves."
When the March happened, Mary Anne Beatley, a nurse living in an all-white section of Capitol Hill, thought "it was about time."
The Washington and Beatley families are interviewed in "Pieces of a Dream," an hour special on Channel 7 at 8 tonight. Using the historic 1963 March as a departure point, the station's principal anchors, David Schoumacher and Renee Poussaint, present an ambitious and successful look at race relations in Washington. Their probe is free of sentimental cosmetics; the emotions are raw, and they illustrate that the pyschological color problem here is still unsolved.
Local television stations will spend the next three days discussing the specialness of the first March, and what has happened since.
"Pieces of the Dream" examines two Washington families, one black, one white, and talks to local politicians about how the city has fared in the last two decades. "Day to Remember: August 28, 1963," a half-hour documentary from Twin Cities public television, is being aired by Channel 5 at 11 p.m. tomorrow. "The March on Washington Remembered," an hour retrospective from Chicago's Central City Marketing, narrated by musician Jerry Butler, will be shown by Channel 20 at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.
All the local stations are planning extended live coverage tomorrow. Besides periodical cut-ins from the Lincoln Memorial, Channel 9 plans to do a 90-minute "Saturday Magazine" beginning at 11 a.m., and Channel 4 plans to air an NBC special at 11 a.m. Sunday. Channel 32 is planning an hour of highlights of tomorrow's events, which will air Sunday at 8 p.m.
All three of the specials mine the same material. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech on each one. The two documentaries ("A Day to Remember" and "The March on Washington Remembered") use personal memories from Bayard Rustin, Walter Fauntroy, Andrew Young, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Charlton Heston and others, film of the 1963 event, and music of the era from "We Shall Overcome" to "Blowing in the Wind."
Most of the participants recall King and his extraordinary speech. Heston says, "like any great work of art, it stands up." Young observes: "He helped people to believe in God and therefore themselves." King's majestic oratory is heard repeatedly, and every line still sings, for example--"let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."
With their reviews of history, all three specials teach vital lessons. Memories are so short; the '60s, despite the watershed emotional events of the decade, have blurred. Looking back is essential, especially when 91 million Americans are under 25 years old.
Yet looking forward is also important. Butler spends only a few minutes--but the Schoumacher-Poussaint team spends its entire hour--examining the present. And earlier this week, while analyzing black America, CBS correspondent Lem Tucker used an excellent barrage of statistics to show that the "Dream Deferred," the title of his three-part series, was actually a dream derailed. Bill Moyers also presented his remembrances through an interesting and candid discussion with two black Washingtonians. But he marred the impact of his show with a patronizing interjection. Standing near the Lincoln Memorial, he asked a black woman who has worked for 20 years in a Washington laundry, "If I were Martin Luther King standing with you today, and I said, 'Sister, how are we doing,' what would you say?"
Schoumacher-Poussaint undercut nostalgia by reporting that black unemployment in Washington is three times that of white, and that the income disparity is greater now than it was in 1963. And although there have been improvements in home ownership and education, their program also reveals the problems of subtle and psychological discrimination that black Americans still face.
When Paul Beatley, a retired government worker, is asked about black progress in the city, he says, "obviously jobs, they took over the city government." But Diane Washington Lowe, a secretary, isn't sure how to measure progress when she observes how few black lawyers are employed by leading Washington firms. "I find it hard to believe we don't have qualified blacks."