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Prince William County Couple Has Strong Ties To Historic March on Washington

A Prince William County couple highlights how their families were involved in the historic March on Washington in 1963.

Jackie Robinson and family at the hotel the day before the Historical March of 1963 (Courtesy of the Brown family )
Jackie Robinson and family at the hotel the day before the Historical March of 1963 (Courtesy of the Brown family )

Submitted by Dr. Lewis R. Brown

Aug. 28th is the 50th anniversary of the historical second civil rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, an event classified as one of the largest non-violent socioeconomic protests in US history.  

For Dale City and Nokesville residents Lewis and Shamira Brown, this historical event has a series of special family memories.  Lewis R. Brown, renowned Northern Virginia community, civil and human rights activist and the CEO/founder of the Northern Virginia Environmental Justice Center, has special ties to this event.  

He has several relatives who participated in the march including Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, one of the founding Fathers of the NAACP.  DuBois organized this event with the likes of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) of Atlanta.  DuBois, known for his passionate desire for equality and justice among the human race, was living in Ghana at the time and actually died on this historical date.

 Lewis said DuBois is related to his grandmother, Georgiana D. Brown.  Her family settled in New Orleans after fleeing Barrington, Mass. in 1911.   Famed civil rights activist and the, "Queen of Gospel Music" Mahalia Jackson, who sang before  Dr. King’s famous speech at the march, is his cousin, related to him through his mother the late Edwina Lillian Alix-Brown. 

Jackson is credited as the first African-American female gospel singer to perform at the presidential ball and inauguration; she sang for President-elect John F. Kennedy in 1961 at both events. 

Jackson is also known as the only gospel singer to perform at the original 1943 march, which is historically known as the First March on Washington.   

Jackson along with Anne Moody, a cousin of Shamira A. Brown, both led the April 1963 civil rights demonstration in Danville, Va. that protested the arrest and beating of Stokely Carimichael-known now as Kwame Ture-and Avon Rollins, now the executive director of Beck Cultural and Exchange Center in Knoxville, Tenn. 

 Lewis said actor and activist Spencer Williams, Jr., who is his father’s first cousin on his grandfather’s side, participated in the 1963 historical March on Washington, DC by conducting his Louisiana Southern Gospel Choir to perform several choral hymns after King preached his famous sermon at this event.  

Williams is best remembered for his role as Andrew H. Brown on the Amos and Andy Show (1950-1853), but was also an accomplished jazz and gospel song writer. Williams wrote the 1940 gospel, song "Silver Bells" for sister Mahalia Jackson who recorded it at Mount Hope Baptist Church in Hope, Va. in August 1940. Williams remained a civil rights activist up until his death from renal carcinoma in December 1969. 

A native of Valadalia, La., Williams was Lewis’ godfather while Mahalia Jackson was his godmother.

 Shamira Brown’s cousin, New York City resident Ann Moody was a well-known civil rights activist in this event.  Moody was also the president of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Toogalou College in Toogallou, Miss and the author of the wrote the chilling autobiography “The Coming of Age in Mississippi."

Shamira Brown said her cousins from Philadelphia, gospel singers known as "The Davis Sisters," participated in this march and were heavy civil rights activists from 1950 through 1990, the year the last sister passed on. 

Their music is still heard on many AM gospel stations in the deep, southern US. The Davis Sisters are often credited as being the singing gospel group who sang “In That Sea” at the march in 1963. 

The Browns have a collection of photos taken from this event that they are going to donate to various African-American museums in the US. 

Lewis Brown said he was not surprised to see the photo of baseball icon and legend Jackie Robinson with King prior to King's delivering his famous speech at the march. 

Lewis Brown also said he was not surprised to see the late President Richard Milhouse Nixon posing for a picture with King, Robinson and the late Rev. Leroy Davis, a relative of Shamira A. Brown. 

JustTheFacts August 26, 2013 at 09:54 AM
My mom, who is now deceased - Audrey Gary of Arlington, VA - marched in 1963 and she described it as one of the most moving experience she'd ever had in life. Unfortunately, I wasn't born until 1964 and didn't get to enjoy that experience with her; but I was always fascinated by the story she told describing the sea of people forming together for one common cause - justice.

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