50th anniversary of March on Washington stirs up memories for those who were there

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It was half a century ago and some memories are dusty, but Shirley Hines clearly recalls getting on a bus in Boston with her parents and heading down to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that took place 50 years ago Wednesday. And she is there again for the anniversary celebration.

Just 13 in 1963, Hines is now a 63-year-old grandmother.

The rally on the National Mall would become the defining civil rights gathering in the United States, sparking landmark civil rights legislation and featuring the singular “I Have a Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

A young state representative from Brookline named Michael Dukakis was one of 20 Massachusetts leaders who signed a statement in support of the march, which read in part: “This historic demonstration represents a turning point in our nation’s development — the point at which we finally begin to honor our Constitution and moral heritage.” Dukakis would later go on to become governor and the Democratic nominee for president in 1988.

The march paved the way for the passage of two pieces of legislation: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A conservative majority of the Supreme Court recently struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, and last week, the Pew Research Center released a survey showing that fewer than half of Americans say the country has made substantial progress toward racial equality. The center’s analysis of government data also found that the economic gulf between blacks and whites that existed 50 years ago remains.

Such results would not surprise Shirley Hines, who took to heart advice from her parents to stay involved in the fight for equality. Among other causes, she volunteered in both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, helping to elect the country’s first African-American president.

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