WENATCHEE — A black-and-white photo taken from the top steps of the Lincoln Memorial Aug. 28, 1963, shows a sea of humanity spilling down the National Mall, around the four corners of the tree-lined reflecting pool to the distant Washington Monument.
Two of the people in that crowd assembled for the March on Washington for civil rights were then-14-year-old Susan Kidd of Entiat, and her father, Michael Kidd.
“As we were walking toward the Lincoln Memorial, the speeches started,” said Kidd. “We couldn’t really hear, but I was aware of a wave of sound that washed over us.”
Part of that wave was the sound of Martin Luther King Jr., his pulpit-honed oratory in full sail, as he told a crowd for the first time, 50 years ago today about a dream he had for racial equality.
“The photographs from that time were always of the people in the front, who were wearing suits, but we were fairly far back in the crowd,” she said. “There were lots and lots of blacks from the rural South. I remember all these black men in clean bib overalls and starched white shirts… I was only 14, but it seemed very momentous.”
Kidd, now 64, co-owns Snowgrass Winery in Entiat with her husband of 32 years, Alan Moen. She also administers a support program for the state Board of Community and Technical Colleges from her small office at the Wenatchee Community Center.
Her politically active, show-business parents left Los Angeles for New York in the wake of the McCarthy Era. She took part in her first rally in Washington, D.C., at age 12.
As a freshman at New York’s Barnard College in 1968, she was one of more than 700 students arrested for staging a sit-in to protest the Columbia University’s intention to build a new library on land within a public park used by residents of nearby Harlem.
Even today, as she pushes back from her laptop in her small Wenatchee office, she still looks the part of a 1960s activist, with craft beads around her neck, long, breezy hair parted in the middle and a sparkle of defiance.
She remembers finding out about the March on Washington while at summer camp and told her dad, a Broadway choreographer, she wanted to go.
He was already in D.C., traveling with a Broadway adaptation of the movie “Miracle on 34th Street.” They agreed to meet at the march. She rode up there on the train.
They ran into celebrities, including Marlon Brando, who her dad choreographed in the movie “Guys and Dolls.” She got a kiss on the cheek.
They all blended into a crowd estimated at between 200,000 and 300,000 people, making it the largest civil rights march of its day and one of the largest in U.S. history. An estimated 75 percent of the marchers were black.
“It was very, very important that there was no violence,” she says, in hindsight. “The fact that it was so large, and that there were whites who marched with blacks and that it was so peaceful — those were the most important things.”
An older cousin was already involved in the civil rights movement.
“It was within the consciousness of my family that this was something important,” she said. “So much of my growing up was spent at things like that, and a lot of it was ugly… This march was incredibly peaceful.”
A chorus of “We Shall Overcome” still makes her eyes water.
“The 60s were such a time of change,” she said, pointing to emerging activism to end the Vietnam War, and conserve the environment as well as champion civil rights. “When I was in my teens and 20s it seemed as if the world was moving in a positive direction, but in so many ways we seem to have gone backwards.”
Kidd hails advances in gay rights and social and racial integration, but she says the mood of the nation changed in the 1980s when material wealth and material gain became the prevailing values.
“We don’t seem to just believe in the greater good; a lot of people do, but as a society that is no longer our identity,” she said.
“One of the things that has disappointed me is the lack of activism among the youth,” she added. “It’s the responsibility of youth to be more radical and very active. They have an ability to do that. It’s the flip side of why we send people to war. I want to see the flip side.”