How the March on Washington Changed the U.S.—and Me

Sixty years ago, the great march set me on a different path.

In the summer of 1963, I was 17 years old and working in Washington, D.C., with a solid-state physics team at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. I had just finished my first year of college, where many of my fellow students were already active in the local civil rights movement.

My apartment was just a short walk from the gathering place for the march—the Washington Monument—and I could get the day off from work. I wanted to see for myself and to participate in what promised to be a very important event, judging from the buzz in the days before about the number of people who were coming.