A special collection in the D.C. Public Library system focuses solely on the District's local history, including the March on Washington.
The 1963 March on Washington called out to a diverse crowd from across the nation, but it happened in our backyard, on our streets, in our community, so the national march for jobs and freedom is uniquely a part of Washington's story.
D.C. Public Library archivist Derek Gray manages the special collections, including the Washingtoniana room at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial branch.
“It was established with a specific collection focus to document the history of the city socially, politically and culturally,” Gray said.
The 108-year-old archive of everything D.C. includes the history-rich Washington Evening Star newspaper.
“When the star closed in 1981, the library got the business records, the administrative records and the photos of the Star,” Gray said.
Newspaper articles, books and other items tell the story of Washington and the march, and many of the photos are from the 1.3 million images the Star turned over to the library.
“It's fascinating because of what the materials document,” Gray said. “The stories are in the photos.”
The stories show young and old, black and white around the reflecting pool, eager for inspiration; snippets of simple moments in time, like a game of checkers on the lawn; a visual record of men destined to be trailblazers standing in awe of their army; and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from a historic pulpit, galvanizing a quarter of a million soldiers for equality.
Even with a robust collection now, the best archives never stop collecting, Gray said. The library is looking for memorabilia and put out a call to D.C. residents who went the march or had relatives there.
“If people have more buttons, flyers, anything - a letter about their experience - we're encouraging people to consider the library to donate those records,” he said.
It’s an effort to create a more complete record and a place for the future to touch real history.
If you or your relatives would like to donate your March on Washington memorabilia, click here.