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CBS New York speaks to 3 women who attended the famed March on Washington

CBS New York meets 3 women who attended the March on Washington
CBS New York meets 3 women who attended the March on Washington 03:13

NEW YORK -- Monday marks 60 years since the March on Washington, a moment many consider a turning point in the fight for civil rights in America.

CBS New York's Hannah Kliger covers Brooklyn. She recently spoke to three women who witnessed that tremendous day first hand.

It's considered one of the largest political rallies for human rights in our country's history.

"I don't know if I necessarily looked at it as what it would mean historically down the road. But what we knew was that there was an opportunity for change in our society and my sister and I wanted to be part of that change," Odehyah Gough-Israel said.

READ MOREOn the March on Washington's 60th anniversary, watch how CBS News covered the Civil Rights protest in 1963

Sisters Judy Gough and Gough-Israel were 13 and 11 years old, respectively, and living in Washington D.C. at the time. Coming from a politically involved family, they were allowed to attend the march on their own.

"There were just lots and lots of events and I was fortunate enough to have parents who understood. And so I would just get on, hop on the bus, and go to these events," Gough said.

The march is credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and then the Voting Rights Act of 1965, according to historian Carolyn Eisenberg. She didn't only dedicate her career to teaching history, she lived it, attending the march as an 18-year-old incoming college freshman.

"One thing that is often forgotten was it was a tremendous amount of fear mongering that was going on surrounding that march and although this also gets lost in history, the Kennedy administration was hostile to the march. They didn't want it to happen and they were putting pressure on civil rights leaders to call it off," said Eisenberg, a professor of U.S. history at Hofstra University.

The stretch between the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument was the venue for arguably one of the most famous speeches in recent history -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s address to a highly divided nation.

All three women remembered hearing the speeches, seeing people in the sweltering heat, and realizing they were witnessing history. They said the feelings of that day are easy to recall, even now.

"The sun is rising and looking down and you're seeing all these different people coming in and this tremendous spirit that was present. I don't think I ever felt that again in quite the same way. That was really like the moment of historic change," Eisenberg said.

"It was historic in a number of ways -- the people, the crowds the event, itself. I'm not sure I knew I'd be talking about it 60 years later," Gough said.

Yet, six decades later, that day is not just remembered, but is used as a mile marker to gauge how far we've come, and how much further we have yet to go.

"I think there's a lot more on the side of improvement in advancement and equality, and that wasn't the case in 1963. I think a lot of people, while they may have not approved of the way people of color were treated, they were afraid to speak out. But I don't think that's the case anymore," Gough-Israel said.

It was a day most of us have only learned about in history books. On Sunday, with their help, it was relived first hand.

On Monday night, please join CBS New York's Maurice Dubois for a fascinating look back at that historic moment in time. Hear from families of key organizers and some who were there. "The March on Washington 60 Years," airs at 5:30 p.m. on CBS2.

Have a story idea or tip in Brooklyn? Email Hannah by CLICKING HERE.

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