Contributed by her daughter, Susan Long, South Pasadena, CA
My mother’s best friend relayed this story to me recently. The coverage of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, 1963 triggered this memory. My family moved from Little Rock, Arkansas to Alexandria, Virginia in July 1963. The hostility my mother witnessed at the integration of Central High School and the violence the Freedom Riders encountered moved her and shaped her views on race in America. It reinforced her opinion that it was a duty of all Americans to fight racism. I am guessing she was shy and a little scared about attending the March on Washington. As a stay at home mother with four young children, she probably felt she didn’t have much to offer the Civil Rights movement at that time. She probably didn’t have the money to pay for a sitter for the whole day.
She drove into Washington and approached folks, offering to wash and iron their clothes. She said she would return them the next day. Most people were reluctant. How would they find each other again? Her friend told me she finally got a few takers. She returned the next day with clean, pressed clothes. I am proud of my mother for her small determined, and humble part in the March on Washington. Her name was Barbara Long. Later, she earned her teaching credential and taught Black American Literature at Fort Hunt High School in Alexandria. She worked hard to connect with students wherever she could. She passed away in 1976.
Submitted: August 21, 2013