From back-singer to civil rights activist: Sacramento man recalls 'March on Washington'

12:06 PM, Aug 28, 2013   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - The 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is very special for one Sacramento man who not only marched in the nation's capital that day back in 1963 but  had the privilege of walking alongside a notable civil rights leader.

It was Stan Read's incredible voice that carried him on a journey he never could have imagined.

January 1963

Read was 22 years old and had aspirations to be a Broadway star. He was living in New York City when he walked into an audition, not knowing for what or for whom.

"Out of 200 people they picked me," Read explained.

Much to his surprise, Read was selected to be a back-up singer on a national tour, working alongside music legend and civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte.

"I was very excited," Read said.

From New York to Chicago to Portland, Read said he and Belafonte became close while on tour. It was only a matter of time before Read found himself right in the middle of the biggest civil rights movement in our nation's history.

"I started to find out that there was a big event that was going to be planned," Read said.

Summer 1963

Harry Belafonte and his entourage were in the middle of a months-long engagement at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. Unbeknownst to Read, Belafonte wasn't just working on his music, he was helping plan a major march for desegregation, and he had a front row seat.

"[Belafonte] had invited me to go, and I found out a little bit later who was going to be on that plane, and it turned out to be some of the who's who in Hollywood, Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, Rita Moreno," Read recalled.

On the night of Aug. 27, 1963, the group boarded a plane for the nation's capital to join the thousands coming together in the March on Washington.

"It was very surreal for me," Read explained. "They had chairs for us on the stairs of the Lincoln memorial. I was incredibly privileged to be a part of that group."

The next day, the group, escorted by police, marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his "I have a Dream" speech.

Summer 2013

The March on Washington was an extraordinary event that made a huge impact on the Civil Rights movement, and for Read, it was a life-changing experience he will never forget.

"I just had the opportunity to do something that was incredibly motivating as a 22 year old," Read said. "That's 50 years gone by and the memories are incredible."


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