In the sweltering heat of a vibrant Detroit summer, on June 23, 1963, a remarkable moment in American civil rights history unfolded at Cobo Hall. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., already a revered figure at that time in the fight for racial justice, took to the podium to deliver a powerful speech that would resonate far beyond the confines of Detroit.  

Little did the world know that this historic event, the Detroit Walk to Freedom, would serve as a stirring prelude to Dr. King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” address in Washington, D.C. just two months later.  

As Detroit’s riverfront brimmed with excitement around the march, bringing together 125,000 people, the largest civil rights march of its kind at the time, it marked a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement. The Walk to Freedom highlighted the plight of African Americans and called for an end to racial discrimination in all forms.  

Ahead of the Detroit Branch NAACP’s 60th-anniversary commemoration of the march, two Detroit women, Dorothy Aldridge and Edith Lee-Payne, sat down with American Black Journal contributor Bryce Huffman to reflect on how it felt to be among the thousands of people marching down Woodward Avenue. Plus, they talk about the impact the march had on their lives and its place in history. 

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Watch American Black Journal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9:30 a.m. on Detroit Public TV, WTVS-Channel 56.