This Day in 1963: Peter, Paul & Mary at the Civil Rights March

Monday, August 28, 2017
This Day in Music

54 years ago today, Peter, Paul & Mary proved their devotion to the cause of civil rights by performing in Washington, DC as part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march on Washington, DC.

Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey, and Mary Travers weren’t the only singers involved in the proceedings that day. Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan lent themselves and their voices to the cause as well, with Baez apparently having traveled from Spain to be there. Folk Music Worldwide host Alan  Wasser explained on his program at the time that Baez “doesn’t like to come to the United States and appear more than she has to, but for this one, with no pay, she came and sang ‘All My Troubles, Lord.’” Baez also performed “We Shall Overcome,” while Anderson delivered a stirring rendition of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” Dylan sang “A Pawn in Their Game,” and an all-star conglomeration of singers teamed up for “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize.”

As for Peter, Paul & Mary, they turned in a live version of “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and when Folk Music Worldwide reporter David Edwards caught up with them, both Yarrow and Travers had a few things to say.

“We're here as everybody else is, personally, as individuals to say that we feel that all human beings are equal, and in this case we're saying something that we've said in our songs,” said Yarrow. “That the colored man in America must have, today, must have the same rights we enjoy, as white people. We are saying it both as individuals, and we've been given the opportunity and the honor of saying it as a group, as Peter, Paul & Mary. It's a great, great honor.”

“It is so easy today to not see the things that are happening around you because you're too busy, because you're doing something else,” said Travers. “But the responsibility, and it is a responsibility, we do not have freedom as a gift. It's not given to us as a God-given right. It's something that you must take, and you must fight for, and you must preserve this liberty. And that's what the song speaks of. Of listening, and watching, and being careful not to lose this liberty.”

The words of Yarrow and Travers as are profound now and they were then, and one might all too easily argue that still they’re all too valid. Somehow, 54 years ago doesn’t seem nearly as long ago as it should.

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