Local woman recalls witnessing Dr. King's historic civil rights speech

Published: Aug. 26, 2013 at 5:25 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 26, 2013 at 11:40 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - "We were so far back in the crowd, and when I heard his voice, my heart jumped. It was like the lord speaking; it's hard to explain how [I] felt."

On a comfortable August afternoon 50 years ago, Myrtle Esteves was one of 250,000 witnesses to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic speech, "I Have a Dream."

"I really didn't hear Dr. Martin's speech until I got home and read it. I couldn't hear with the crowd all around me."

Esteves recalls being moved by all the people in the crowd. Whites, blacks, rich, poor; she even remembers being shoulder to shoulder with certain celebrities.

"A whole lot of movie stars; you didn't realize you were so excited [and] here is this person who is well-known and after he passes you, you were like, 'that was Harry Belafonte!'"

"I didn't realize how big it was going to be until I got back to New York. I had no idea how tremendous and what a crowd we had, you know. When I got back home my husband was so sorry that he didn't go with me."

Her son, Steve, was in high school at the time. He regretted not going too, "I didn't go. I had the opportunity to go but I didn't. She was more fearless that I was. I was proud of her but I had that little grain of regret that I didn't go."

Even before the march on Washington, Myrtle was an activist in her community, going door-to-door in order to register people to vote.

"I was really serious about what I was doing. After I fed my family in the afternoon, I would go knocking on doors. In my neighborhood I was voted "Miss Voter Registration" and they had a ball for me. I was crowned by Sidney Poitier. It was a nice thing."

Myrtle's family is very familiar with her stories of the fight for civil rights, and is very proud of her role.

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