Matthews, who was in elementary school in the 1960s, said he didn’t understand the dynamics of the court decisions and movement at the time but recognizes the benefits he had as a “civil rights child.” The anniversary is an opportunity for black parents to teach children about King’s legacy and how the struggle for equality continues, he said.
“It’s not over,” he said.
At Hartwick’s Pluralism Center, Matthews has prepared a display on the civil rights movement and historic black figures. The exhibit in Bresee Hall on campus includes magazines, documents, statues and other memorabilia.
William Simons, SUNY Oneonta history professor and chapter president of United University Professions, joined UUP members and New York State United Teachers members on a bus that went from Vestal to Washington, D.C., for the march on Saturday.
The trip and the march were an opportunity to “dip into the inspiration” of the civil rights movement, Simons said, and the union members shared stories from the past and hopes for the future.
“There was a good deal of adrenaline and anticipation,” Simons said Sunday.
The crowd shared a sense of history, mission and community, he said, and listened to many speakers through the heat of the afternoon.
“Our energy levels stayed high,” he said.
The nation today has its first black president, among many other advances that couldn’t have been imagined 50 years ago, Simons said.
“There was a sense we have come a long way,” Simons said. “Great progress has been made, but more remains to be done. “
Simons, who was 13 the year of the King speech, said the 1963 march raised his awareness of racial issues, including the crisis over busing for desegregation in Boston, his hometown.
Robert Compton, a professor in the political science at Africana and Latino Studies departments at SUNY Oneonta, said the anniversary is important as an opportunity to reflect on achievements that developed during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and on King’s legacy of social justice and racial inclusion.