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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August, 2003, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
An inspirational journey
Joyce Barrett was featured in the Washington Post after the march

Joyce Barrett (pictured in a Washington Post article) was one of the few white northerners to join the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. As a college student, she joined the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). She was jailed in Albany, Georgia in the spring of 1963 for handing out voter registration forms.

For me, it was the journey to Washington that was inspirational. A train had been chartered and a group of about 150 of us got on at Albany.

We had been followed by the police, and the newspapers had accused Martin Luther King of being a communist
The most moving thing was that as our train moved through the southern towns, hundreds of people who couldn't go on the march came down to the tracks to see and touch the train. Many were singing freedom songs.

It was a big thing - the idea of going to Washington to march. Their dream was to be able to demonstrate without being arrested.

In the weeks preceding the march, we were very tired and very depressed. There had been an enormous opposition to what we were doing within the white community.

We had been followed by the police, and the newspapers had accused Martin Luther King of being a communist.

The march lifted our spirits. One word to describe it would be "joy". The country was starting to pay attention to the civil rights movement, but the law hadn't changed significantly. The march was a fantastic opportunity to focus the country on changing the laws.

There were a number of white northerners like myself. People would refer to the civil rights issue as a "Negro problem" but I thought it was a white problem - that discrimination was bad for the white community.

I had a religious background, and I felt I couldn't be the person I wanted to be unless I opposed segregation. I thought if we didn't confront it, the country would go downhill.

We accomplished more than we thought at the time, we were always conscious of the things left to be done.

I think the triumph was that we forced change but didn't use violence - there is no rancour about the changes that were pushed.

I feel I served my country in the same way that someone would join the armed forces if that is what they wanted to do.


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