Nightly News   |  August 24, 2013

Five decades later, MLK’s ‘dream’ remembered

It’s been 50 years since Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream Speech.” Thousands marched on Washington in remembrance of the historic event. NBC's Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> 50 years ago a quarter of a million people streamed onto the national mall for a march that would energize the passage of the 1964 civil rights act and the voting rights act one year later. they heard the reverend dr. martin luther king deliver a speech of history. today they converged to galvanize a new generation. nbc's kristen welker is on the mall for this dramatic day. kristen, good evening.

>> reporter: lester, good evening to you. today the mall was filled with more than 200,000 people, all here to remember and to continue the fight that gained new ground here a half a century ago. marching in unity, another step these folks say in the nation's long journey toward civil rights .

>> we do still care about our rights and our civil rights .

>> reporter: today a sea of people came from all across the country, including russell grady who boarded a bus early this morning in patterson, new jersey.

>> i'm energized.

>> reporter: the 82-year-old took part in the march on washington nearly 50 years old.

>> my gut feeling then it, we didn't know if we could make the progress that we've made. but today i can say that we've made a lot of progress.

>> free at last. free at last!

>> reporter: on that day dr. martin luther king jr . delivered words that made history.

>> because i have a dream.

>> reporter: and together, these americans, 250,000 strong, forced action.

>> a year later, of course, congress passed in 1964 the civil rights right.

>> reporter: d.c. delegate eleanor norton was a nonviolent activist and one of the march's few female organizers.

>> this was a march in the spirit of non-violence in every sense of the word. it was full of joy and ex-ality exaltation.

>> reporter: david blaha was among a quarter of the marchers who were white. today he came back with his family including his granddaughter, who is 11 years old, the same age he was on that historic day. what is that like for you as a grandfather?

>> well, i'm -- it's very emotional. because i'm thinking when she's my age, she'll have her grandchildren at the 100th.

>> while the country has made progress these marchers say there is more work to do in the wake of trayvon martin, the supreme court 's decision to scale back the voting rights act and with the black unemployment rate soaring, reverend al sharpton organized today's event along with dr. king's son.

>> what they came to washington so we could come today.

>> we know that the dream is far from being realized.

>> you got to speak up, speak out, and get in the way. make some noise!

>> reporter: and now in the shadow of america's complicated racial history, new dreams are giving way.

>> i have a dream that one day 16-year-old kids don't have to worry about being killed when they're walking home from 7-elevening.

>> i have a dream that the african-american story will become a story of the world.

>> that dr. king's dream, his legacy will never be forgotten.

>> reporter: now the actual anniversary is on wednesday. on that day, president obama will deliver a speech from the steps of the lincoln memorial , the same exact spot that dr. martin luther king delivered his "i have a dream" speech 50