Watch CBS News

"Nothing had been done like that before": Civil rights icon Dr. Josie Johnson on 60 years since March on Washington

Dr. Josie Johnson reflects on 50th anniversary of March on Washington
Dr. Josie Johnson reflects on 60th anniversary of March on Washington 03:18

MINNEAPOLIS -- The 60th anniversary of the March on Washington is sparking memories from Minnesotans who made the trek to the nation's capitol to fight for civil rights.

Dr. Josie Johnson, 92, was part of that Minnesota group. Her seven decades of fighting for voting, housing, education, and employment rights in the Land of 10,000 Lakes is legendary. WCCO's Reg Chapman sat down with the civil rights icon as she reflected on this historic moment.

Johnson says the diverse group of Minnesotans who made the trip to Washington D.C. in 1963 were committed to driving change. 

"It meant that we were a part of what we considered a historical movement, so it was of great sense. Think of that; nothing had been done like that before," she said.

More than 250,000 descended on the Mall in Washington D.C. to fight for civil and economic rights of African Americans. It was the largest event of its kind in our country's history, representing a bigger movement.

"The thought that we were reaching out to the world and that people were going to join us in our great district of Washington ... talk about feeling the love and commitment of freedom," Johnson said.

Johnson had already spent years working on fair housing and other legislative activity in Minnesota, and representing in D.C. helped fuel the work.

"Many people didn't even know Minnesota or the struggle for justice and equality here, so it was an opportunity for us to join that national group of people expressing the need for justice and equal opportunity," she said.

It was one of the first times people witnessed unity among various civil rights groups. And on that day in August 1963, Minnesotans joined them in the march for freedom.

"When you are there you are no longer this small group from a state. Very few people know you," Johnson said. "I can remember that morning so well."

She hopes revisiting this important time in American history will encourage the next generation to continue the fight.

Johnson's accomplishments include work through the Minneapolis Urban League, the League of Women Voters, and the Junior Service League. Her book, "Hope in the Struggle," details her story and advice on how to keep fighting for justice.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.