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60th Anniversary of The March on Washington: Coloradan makes journey in memory of her mother

Ruth Cousins Denny
Posted at 1:21 PM, Aug 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-25 15:21:19-04

Monday, August 28, marks the 60th anniversary of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

The family of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in collaboration with civil rights leader Al Sharpton, will host an event to commemorate the anniversary on August 26 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

In memory of her mother, former judge Dianne Briscoe will make the journey to D.C. for the event.

Briscoe's mother, civil rights activist Ruth Cousins Denny, attended The March on Washington in 1963. Not only that, but Denny also worked to make it possible for others to go as well.

"My mother helped get James Baldwin here to do a fundraiser for money to take two— I think it was two— busloads of people to the March on Washington in 1963," Briscoe said.

Organizers call the 60th anniversary of the event a continuation of the work that was done in 1963 because many of the problems activists were trying to address then still exist.

"This thing of banning books, and not teaching history, not teaching black history," Briscoe said, "My mother would be appalled, angry, hurt... putting in all of this work to have such hatred going on in this country and things happening that she was trying to fight."

That's part of the reason why Briscoe is participating in Saturday's March on Washington anniversary event.

"Personally, I'm fulfilling a dream," she said, "And carrying on the legacy of my mother."

Denny was a leader for the Denver civil rights organization Congress on Racial Equality.

"We actually had meetings in my home, our home," Briscoe recalled. "And I remember sitting on the floor and helping make pick picket signs, and my mother actually put my brother and I on picket lines."

Denny fought for Colorado companies to hire African American workers.

"Congress of Racial Equality in Colorado picketed Denver Dry Goods, Zone Cab Company, Safeway and King Soopers because of discriminatory hiring practices," Briscoe said.

But employment wasn't the only concern African Americans were facing at the time of The March on Washington in 1963.

"There were still Jim Crow laws throughout the south," civil rights attorney Terrance Carroll said. "There was still systemic segregation, not just in the south, but also in other parts of United States through redlining, in terms of who could live where, in terms of where you could buy real estate. Schools were still segregated."

Carroll said the 1963 event felt almost like a religious experience for many of the people in attendance who were fighting for their rights.

"Black folks still had a hard time voting in some parts," Carroll said. "In fact, they were systematically denied the right to vote. And so those things were at the core of what the people who showed up in Washington D.C. in 1963 were actually trying to combat."

Denny was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 2022. You can learn more about her here.