Hidden History: March on Washington participant shares how Dr. King’s vision changed her life

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech still draws up memories for Barbara Waller Nealy.

“It was outstanding,” she says.

Nealy was in the crowd on August 28, 1963 for the March on Washington.

On that day and many days that followed, Dr. King’s message offered hope to the high school senior who battled segregation in her own life.

“We don’t need to accept second class citizenship,” Nealy explains how the words affected her. “That what it was like growing up at Maggie L. Walker High School. The books we received fell apart.”

Nealy’s mother contracted a bus company to take neighbors of all ages to Washington, D.C. to witness history.

“When he talked about his dream, I knew our time was coming.”

While it was almost a year until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ended segregation, Nealy carried Dr. King’s vision with her as a student then as a teacher for about 30 years. She used his words to guide others.

“Hold on to your dreams, honor your father and mother, behave yourself in school,” she shares the message she passed on to young people for decades. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you.”

The words from Dr. King nearly 54 years ago are still Nealy’s dream today.

“What a day, what a day, what a day it was.”

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