PUEBLO, Colo. (CBS4) – On the eve of the 57th anniversary of the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one woman shared her memories of the original event and the message from it she carries with her decades later. Events across the state will mark the anniversary on Friday.
“It was something,” said Dr. Ruth Steele, “All I can say is that I never thought in my life I would be sitting here today telling about something that happened on the 28th of August 1963.”
Steele lives in Pueblo where she has run the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center and Museum and is an honorary lifetime member of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Colorado Holiday Commission. She spent two weeks in Washington preparing for the march in 1963, remembering that August day was hot with many people fainting because of the heat. That day some commented to her about the desire to hear even more from King.
“Tell them about the dream,” Steele recalls one woman yelling out to King. “She was tired of listening to ‘I have a dream,’ ‘tell them about the Dream man.'”
This week is not only a time to remember the words of King at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom but also the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution taking effect giving some women the right to vote. Steele shared that she and other women of color had to wait decades to cast their first vote, even paying a poll tax when she first went to the polls.
“Just be careful, because you see, words mean something,” she told CBS4 on a video conference call. “Be careful what you say people because I always say, ‘Oh my goodness words mean something.’”
Now residing in Pueblo, she is proud to live in the same town that is home of the MLK statue previously inside Denver’s City Park that also features Emmett Till, the teenage Black boy who was killed by a group of white men after he was accused of whistling at a white woman. The progress made since the march and King’s words not only highlight the right to vote but the access to education, values she hopes the next generation seizes in their future.
“Respect, respect, respect,” Steele said. “If you keep those things in your mind and in your life, you will be successful.”