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Long Beach Woman, Lifelong Civil Rights Activist Remembers Historic March On Washington

LONG BEACH ( — A Long Beach woman who was in the nation's capital 50 years ago for the historic March on Washington said she counts that day as the highlight of her life.

Peggy Dammond Preacely, a 20-year-old freedom rider and member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, traveled from Boston to Washington D.C. for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Dammond Preacely told CBS2's Pat Harvey she felt the march would be a major turning point in history.

"You just felt like the world was going to turn around, you felt like there weren't going to be any more problems after the march," said Dammond Preacely. "How could there be? We were going to save America."

Immersed in the civil rights movement from the age of 15, Dammond Preacely was arrested three times for participating in sit-ins, marches and boycotts in Maryland and Albany.

During one arrest, Dammond Preacely said she and her fellow protesters were held in a stockade for two weeks, while sheriff's authorities conducted target practice in plain view.

Dammond Preacely met Dr. King in city jail. "Dr. King came brought some of us toothbrushes and said 'carry on, students'."

On August 28, Dammond Preacely joined tens of thousands of people to hear Dr. King deliver his "I Have a Dream" speech at the nation's capital.

"It was fascinating. It was just fascinating to see this sea of humanity just converging on the mall," she said. "White people, black people, Indian, Mexican; it was just everybody coming together to say we want justice, we want jobs. We want freedom, and we want it now."

Dammond Preacely said those present at the march could not know the "sadness and terror" that was to come in the years that followed, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama.

Fifty years later, Dammond Preacely told CBS2 that she believes that Dr. King's dream is not yet fully realized.

"I think it's a dream deferred, as Langston Hughes would say, not a dream denied." she said. "One of the main things of the March on Washington was jobs, justice, freedom. We're still jobs and justice."

Now 70, Dammond Preacely lectures around the countries about her civil rights experience and family history. She moved to California in 1970 and is married with four grown children and nine grandchildren.

"If you look at the march, you don't want to say it was all for naught, absolutely not," she said. "The words of Dr. King are important for our children and for ourselves. But our work is never done."

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