From King's 'I Have a Dream' to Obama Inauguration

Many civil rights leaders and prominent African-American activists who came to Washington, D.C., almost 46 years ago for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s March on Washington are returning to D.C. to witness President-elect Barack Obama's historic inauguration.

Witnessing the event will be a deeply emotional experience for those who stood alongside King in his fight for civil rights, enduring brutal beatings and risking their lives in taking a stand for racial equality.

Some, like longtime civil rights activist Rev. Otis Moss Jr., helped to organize busloads of whites and blacks to travel D.C. in 1963, and stood steps from King as he delivered his famed "I Have a Dream" speech.

"Those of my generation, we will bring a special kind of memory, a special kind of fulfillment to that moment," Moss, now the senior pastor emeritus of the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, told

On Wednesday, Moss will deliver the opening prayer at the National Prayer Service, the traditional interfaith service at the Washington National Cathedral.

But tomorrow, Moss will be among the crowd of people witnessing Obama take his place in the nation's history.

"We will feel the presence of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., himself, of the four little girls who died in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, of a Thurgood Marshall," he said. "Persons who have borne thy burdens in the heat of the day and worked sacrificially for things to come, knowing that they would perhaps not live to see the fruit of their labors but nevertheless knew that this day would come."

A quarter of a million whites, blacks and people of all races and ethnicities came to D.C. in 1963 to participate in King's massive civil rights march and hear his "I Have a Dream" speech delivered on the National Mall in the shadow of the Abraham Lincoln Memorial.

Almost 46 years later, millions of people are pouring into Washington, D.C., on the holiday celebrating King's birthday, preparing to witness firsthand Tuesday's swearing in of Obama as the nation's first black president.

Most Moving Moments of My Lifetime

"Many of the same people came here over 45 years ago for the March on Washington," Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., told ABC Radio's Ann Compton.

"Their mothers, their fathers, their grandparents came here, black and white, and they want to be here to say to Barack Obama, 'We're with you.' But also to come in the name of their forefathers and their foremothers," he said.

Lewis was instrumental in organizing student sit-ins, bus boycotts and non-violent protests in the fight for voter and racial equality.

He endured brutal beatings by angry mobs and suffered a fractured skull at the hands of Alabama State police as he led a march of 600 people in Selma, Ala. in 1965.

"It is unreal. But this is one of the most moving periods, one of the most moving moments for me in my lifetime," Lewis said.

"When he [Obama] was born, people of color couldn't register to vote in many quarters of the deep South," he said. "They had to pass a literacy test, stand in unmovable lines, some people were beaten, jailed and some were even killed."

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