Dorie Ladner Remembers the March on Washington

Dorie and Joyce Ladner
Dorie and Joyce Ladner

My name is Dorie Ladner, and I was born in June 1942 in Mississippi.

During the summer of 1963 I was doing voter registration work in Jackson, NMS. Medgar Evers had just been murdered on June 12. In August I had the good fortune of meeting up with a lot of movement friends and Joyce and I got a ride from Mississippi to New York City. We stayed with Rochelle Horowitz of CORE in her Manhattan apartment near the Village. I worked in the SNCC office at 100 Fifth Avenue, doing organizing and fundraising, and Joyce went to work at the March headquarters in Bayard Rustin’s office. Bayard’s apartment was on the same floor as Rochelle’s.

I would walk to Greenwich Village in free time and walk around with my eyes wide open. It was amazing. There was a transit strike going on and so we walked a lot. Finally, the day before the March I got a ride from NY to DC with Donna Richards; Bob Dylan was also in the car. We went to the Hilton on K Street, the March headquarters. That night we went to a house party, I don’t remember where, but at the party were Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Nicholas Katzenbach and other celebrities. Sidney Poitier spoke to me and I could barely get out an answer.

The morning of the March, there had been an attack on three SNCC workers in Southwest Georgia: Don Harris, Ralph Allen, and John Perdew were arrested in Sumter County and charged with Sedition. Some of us in D.C. went at 5AM that morning and picketed the Department of Justice in protest.

Back at the Hilton, I saw Malcolm X. We went upstairs to wash up and then walked to the mall. And Oh My God, I never saw anything like it!

I was in the rear of the Lincoln Memorial stage with James and Mildred Forman, Courtland Cox, Eleanor Holmes and John Lewis. Archbishop O’Boyle said we had to cut John’s speech. We negotiated. Tom Kahn of NAG (Howard University) had helped write John’s speech, and John had practiced delivering the speech in Bayard’s apartment. After negotiating about the content of the speech, we finally relented and changed it.

I was behind the speakers at the back of the stage. We were all hot and sweaty. We had worked so hard to get to this point. Dr. King did not speak until later. I had never seen so many people in one place before. I walked around to the side of the Memorial during King’s speech and heard such a roar from the crowd. The crowd was amazing.

At the end of the program all the SNCC people gathered and linked arms and sang We Shall Overcome. I am the girl in the white blouse and overalls 6th from the left in the photo.

March on Washington Singing

My sister Joyce is 4th from the left. Between us is Bob Moses in a white shirt.

We weren’t happy with the way the speech turned out. We came there with many issues that were not addressed.

Back at the hotel people started leaving. I went back to NY with Rochelle.

For me, as a daughter of Mississippi, the March helped to stir my thoughts about where the rest of my life was headed.

Interview with Dorie Ladner, August 16, 2023 by Sharlene Kranz