Watch CBS News

Korean War veteran Nat Williams explains why he joined March on Washington and keeps marching today

Korean War veteran Nat Williams reflects on racism after the war
Korean War veteran Nat Williams reflects on racism after the war 02:43

NEW YORK -- Korean War veteran Nat Williams sacrificed for his country overseas and here at home.

He was 31 years old at the time of the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. 

"That was a beautiful time," he recently told CBS New York's Alecia Reid. "We felt like we were accomplishing things."

He had returned from the war years earlier injured and feeling like a hero, but says he experienced racism. 

"I got all my medals on and everything and I'm a vet from Korea, I go in the restaurant, and the guy tells me I can't eat in there... It was embarrassing," he said. "I bled all the way over Korea for that flag."

In the 1960s, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was making headlines and drawing large crowds while protesting. At the time, Williams was living in Harlem and meeting other high-profile individuals. 

"Malcolm put his hand on my shoulder... He put his hand on my head and said, 'You keep wearing that kufi, you'll be alright,'" he said. "Malcolm X, I didn't know who he was!"

What the veteran did know was that he wanted to be a part of the movement. Williams said he was encouraged by his grandmother to get involved when he was a boy. He started marching at a young age and, to this day, continues to fight for justice.

"Racism is a cancer," he said. "I was in all those marches. Every march they had, I was in there. In the '60s, that's all I did, and that's all I do now."

He said there's still hope that Dr. King's dream is still alive.

"All these police killings and things, it's been happening for years. We've been complaining about it," he said. "That's why I join these things, to help my country."

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.