This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, when Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech. Documentary photojournalist Leonard Freed was one of the 200,000 people in the crowd that day. He died of prostate cancer in 2006, but a new book of his photos from that day, This Is The Day: The March On Washington, was released in February.
Scott Simon talks with Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of sociology at Georgetown University, who wrote the essay in the book — as well as Freed's wife, Brigitte, who was also there on that hot summer morning:
"It was a self-assigned story," she recalls. "Nobody asked him to do this story."
Although most Americans were hearing King's words for the first time, he had actually delivered some of the same phrases in a Detroit speech a couple of months before.
"That having been said, it doesn't mean that his charisma wasn't extraordinary," says Dyson. "King ... stood at the sunlit summit of expectation and articulated a dream as golden and as powerful ... now as it was then — and Leonard Freed captures those people who King felt were worth fighting for."
Freed's wife recalls: "Leonard didn't stop taking pictures until the last protesters had headed home. I think what we see is the remarkable recording of the silent dignity of the masses of black people and their allies."
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