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

On eve of inauguration, activists reflect on MLK's March on Washington.

ByABC News
January 16, 2009, 3:39 PM

Jan. 19, 2009 — -- 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.