Tulsa Music Minister Recounts March On Washington 50 Years Ago

Wednesday, August 28th 2013, 7:00 pm
By: News On 6

Fifty years ago, The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the largest political gathering for human rights in American history.

Joseph Bias, Music Minister at First United Methodist in Tulsa, and his father were in the crowd on the National Mall that day.

"I was 16 years old, this time 50 years ago," Bias said.

He and his dad came up from Savannah, Georgia on a train. He said it started small, and kept adding cars with more people, as they traveled North, reaching Washington, DC, the following morning to join thousands who were already there. Bias said he had never seen so many people in one place before.

"Just a sea, a mass of humanity of all races, all colors, all ages," Bias said. " And everybody was there with an energy and a purpose and an excitement and anticipation that this was something that was profound and something that was gonna change the world."

It gave him a look at how big the movement was and how inclusive. Back home, everything was separate--separate schools, separate restrooms, drinking fountains marked white and colored.

"That day, we didn't have any of that. We were just all people together," Bias said. "We were sharing our food with one another, we were sharing songs together, we were talking with each other, like just regular folks, you know, folks who had never met. And then we locked arm-in-arm and sang together, 'We Shall Overcome.' It was overwhelming."

He didn't know that, five years later, he would be asked to sing at Dr. King's funeral.

Bias also talked a bit about work yet to do, and goals still to be accomplished, but he said the anniversary of the day ought to be a celebration.

"Today is about celebrating the beginning of something new in our country that happed 50 years ago," Bias said.

Bias witnessed history again in 1968, when he sang at Dr. King's funeral. He sang a bit of that hymn for us Wednesday. See that along with his complete interview above.