1963 march participant Andrew Courtney returns to Washington for the 50th anniversary

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Retired AFT member Andrew Courtney had just started teaching fine arts at Woodlands High School in Hartsdale, N.Y., in 1963. For Courtney, there was no question about attending the March on Washington. "I was already an activist locally on civil rights issues, but the message of direct but nonviolent activism took hold of me that day. It solidified a lifetime of activism for me."

Courtney says he has attended hundreds of demonstrations in Washington, but nothing like the one that day. "This one was a launching pad for people to be mindful on the issue of race and racism."

Just as he made it a point to attend the 1963 march, Courtney had no doubt he would return to Washington to commemorate the march’s 50th anniversary this past Aug. 24.

"I didn’t have grand expectations, but I wanted to be with my fellow citizens," says Courtney of his return trip to Washington.

Courtney did, however, want to leave the march with an action plan. He wanted to hear leaders ask the marchers to get involved in efforts to end policies such as "stand your ground" and "stop and frisk."

"Dr. King had a dream 50 years ago. But what have we woken up to? Are the changes as monumental as we think they are?"

Courtney hopes that those attending the 50th anniversary march will continue the conversations started in Washington in 1963—and make every effort to advance Dr. King’s dream. "I certainly plan to continue my activism," the retired AFT member says. [Adrienne Coles]

September 27, 2013