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Black History Month: Longest-Tenured NAACP Employee Helped Organize March On Washington

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Among the organizations who sponsored the March on Washington was the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. NY1's Jon Weinstein sat down with one woman who helped make the march happen.

Mildred Bond Roxborough wasn't just there for the March on Washington in 1963. She helped organize it as a staff member of the NAACP.

She recruited people from across the country to attend, and then helped on the day of the march.

"Our job then was to first of all, follow the plan that we had set and the steps, in terms of giving instructions to the various participating groups," she said.

Roxborough joined the NAACP in 1954 and she's worked there ever since, making her the organization's longest-tenured employee.

She said the march came together after a series of particularly tense events that summer. She was working in Mississippi, and she said that the assassination of Medgar Evers deeply affected her.

"That just caused, it was like a floodgate had been opened," she said.

That assassination and continued discrimination helped create the momentum for a major march on Washington.

Roxborough has a vivid memory of the march itself. Dr. Martin Luther King's speech is the most famous moment, but she remembers how powerful so many of the other speakers were.

"We don't remember all those speeches, but there were some excellent speeches that day," she said. "And toward the end, the last, the second one from the end was Martin Luther King."

As for Dr. King's speech, one moment with singer Mahalia Jackson stands out.

"He started speaking, and as he got the crowd engaged, she says, 'Martin, tell them about your dream!'" Roxborough said.

Roxborough almost retired in 1997 from the NAACP, but that didn't last. Her co-workers said she is an invaluable resource.

"A lot of our history is not in the books, but Mrs. Roxborough is able to provide that to us," said Paula Brown Edme, director of corporate development with the NAACP.

Roxborough believes we've come a long way with civil rights, but there's still work to be done.

"The subtle discrimination makes it easier for people to continue to exclude minorities from certain places in our society," she said.

Roxborough is continuing her life's work to change that.

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