Local woman shares 'March on Washington' memories

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by Tiffany Tarpley

MILWAUKEE -- A local woman shared her experience from the March on Washington fifty years ago.  Nancy Torphy is a retired librarian for the Milwaukee Public Library system.  She was an 18-year-old college student when she and a friend drove from the University of Illinois to Washington, D.C. in 1963. 

"The city was kind of empty you didn't have a sense that something huge was going to happen," Torphy recalls on the night before the demonstration.  "We were sitting in Dupont Circle, a bunch of White college students and there were some older African American gentlemen...we got involved in this conversation about how maybe things could change.  We were all sitting together very happily."

She said the experience was positive, wonderful and gentle.  Torphy didn't take any pictures that day so all she has are her memories. "I had enough good sense to count that we were sitting in front of the third tree so I can say when I look at pictures that's where I was sitting."

She recalls Dr. Martin Luther King's voice being strong and his powerful message understood.  "He started rather quietly and then it was like he was driving a car with a stick shift and suddenly he was in third gear and he grabbed all those people you could just sense 250,000 people were with him," she said.

Torphy believes we're still working toward the dream, "but I know that things are different, it's not that they're terrific but things have changed," she explained.  "We can't let that, the fact that we've gone so far stop us from trying to keep going."

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