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Rita Moreno recounts attending the March on Washington 60 years ago: "I came home a completely different person"

Rita Moreno looks back at March on Washington
Rita Moreno looks back at attending March on Washington 60 years ago 11:18

Sixty years after the 1963 March on Washington, actress and activist Rita Moreno still gets goosebumps thinking about that historic afternoon.

"I came home a completely different person," Moreno told CBS News' John Dickerson. "And I have not changed since then."

Moreno was fresh off her groundbreaking best supporting actress win for her role as Anita in "West Side Story" at the 1962 Academy Awards, becoming the first Latina to win an Oscar.

Singer and activist Harry Belafonte invited Moreno to participate in the march along with other celebrities, including musician Sammy Davis Jr., who is pictured standing next to Moreno about "10 or 12" feet away from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Morena recalled.

"I was so thrilled to have been invited to be a part of this, and I have Harry Belafonte to thank," she said. "He decided that he wanted a Hollywood contingent to be present there because he wanted Dr. King to know that there were people in Hollywood of great conscience."

March On Washington
Hollywood celebrities pose on the steps before boarding an airplane for the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963. From left: actors Frank Silvera, James Garner, Marlon Brando, Steve Cochran (partly hidden); Anthony Franciosa, Rita Moreno and Harry Belafonte. Ed Widdis / AP

The event, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech, sparked a moment of profound change within Moreno, she said. "I don't think that I understood until I stood there, on [the Lincoln Memorial], just how important this was. How important it was to make yourself heard. That's exactly what I had to do."

Although she was "terrified" of repercussions from attending the march — such as getting blacklisted from Hollywood or facing physical attacks — Moreno remained steadfast in her conviction. "At some point in life, one has to take responsibility," she said. "One has to be responsible for what is."

Reflecting on the progress the U.S. has made in civil rights and race relations over the past 60 years, Moreno recognized there is still work to be done. 

"A lot has changed, and nothing has changed," Moreno said. "It just absolutely sears my soul, the thought that there is so much hatred in this country. What the hell happened?"

Still, Moreno finds hope in seeing younger generations pick up where she left off.

"I'm 91 now, and I'm so sorry that I can't do demonstrations the way I used to then," Moreno said. "I wish I would be around for another 20 years, because man, I'd get on my high horse and do some talking."

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