50 years after the march on Washington, Columbus residents are heading to D.C. to commemorate the event that sparked activism in communities around the country and led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The group filled with college students, NAACP members, and families will join 100,000 other people in D.C. Saturday. Columbus has a unique place in history for civil rights. Local historians said Dr. Thomas Brewer was one of the leading civil rights activists in the community.
Dr. Brewer, a Columbus physician who had an office on First Avenue, fought for equality and justice but was shot to death in Downtown Columbus in 1956. Historian Gary Sprayberry said his death had a significant impact on the black community.
"His death, a lot of people left town because if it, and it put a damper on Civil Rights Activism in Columbus for a number of years," said Sprayberry.
Historian Johnnie Warner said fear of violence was prevalent in the community and black did not feel protected by the police. He said the local chapter of the KKK actually met at the police station and they stood on the steps of the government building, but Sprayberry said activism began to pick up with Columbus youth. In the 60's Columbus youth took to Weracoba park now Lakebottom park in order to protest segregation in the public park.
Dr. Sprayberry said a bi-racial committee was formed and schools began to integrate. The 70's brought the firing of several black police officers and there were more than 150 cases of arson.
Warner said remembering our history is key and working to provide civil liberties to everyone is a must.
"Anything that we do to decrease or alleviate the discrimination, the lack of jobs or the racism that always helps," said Warner.
Martin Luther King Jr. also visited Columbus during the Civil Rights period. He spoke at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple and Warner said the Prince Hall masons protected King from those who were threatening him.
The group heading to Washington D.C. will stop by the King Center in Atlanta and tour the capital before returning home Sunday.
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