At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington
For decades Lloyd Pearson has been an active participant in the struggle for equality and civil rights for people of color. As a Lifetime Member of the NAACP, Lloyd Pearson has participated in sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters; walked picket lines to protest the non-hiring of Black clerks in downtown department stores; and participated in the historic March on Washington on August 1963.
He has chaired and participated on numerous NAACP committees and has conducted hundreds of voter’s registration drives. He has personally collected more than 35,000 voter’s registration applications.
This retired postal worker is a member of Stanton class of 1939 and the brother of notable Civil Rights leader Rutledge Pearson.
Lloyd Pearson has been an active participant in the struggle for equality and civil rights for people of color. As a concerned citizen and a lifetime member of the NAACP, he has participated in sit-ins, picket lines and marches both locally and throughout the country. In Jacksonville, he participated in sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters and walked picket lines in front of large downtown department stores to protest the non-hiring of Black clerks. He has personally collected more than 35,000 Voter Registration applications over the past few decades. But on August 28, 1963 he stood beside a tree near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C. as a participant in one of the largest political rallies in the Civil Rights Movement – The March on Washington.
Mr. Pearson was among a group of 35 people who boarded the “Freedom Train’ in Jacksonville, bound for Washington, D.C. On the day of departure Mr. Pearson, his brother notable civil rights leader Rutledge Pearson, and members of the local chapter of the NAACP boarded the train with other participants from around the state. The train moved up the eastern coast making stops in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia. Mr. Pearson recalled that the largest group of people boarded the train in Savannah, Georgia. The mood on the train was at times jubilant and at times pensive. Pearson recalls a moment when he sat in his seat idly sharpening a pencil with a small bowie knife, contemplating what he would see and experience when the train reached Washington. He thought about other nonviolent protests where participants were met with violent physical opposition and arrest from angry mobs and law enforcement. What would they face in Washington? Would the people come? “Nobody knew what was going to happen,” he recalls.
As he whittled away the wood from the pencil he was approached by railway worker Sollie Mitchell who asked him what he was doing and offered to secure the knife and return it to him on. the return trip home. Mr. Pearson chuckled as he revealed Mr. Mitchell misplaced the knife and just presented him with a replacement within the last few years. Lloyd Pearson remembered seeing crowds of people lining the roadsides and tracks as the train passed through some cities. On one occasion he heard the crack- le and pop of what he hoped were rocks hitting the roof of the train cars. On they travelled – Savannah, Charleston, Florence and Richmond. “Thurgood Marshall got on the train in Richmond.” he said. The train arrived in Washington, D. C. around 7:00 AM. The marchers boarded buses that were lined up outside the terminal and rode to the Washington Memorial where they joined a multiracial group of thousands of marchers. There was a heavy police presence along the route and Mr. Pearson did not recall encountering any threatening crowds.
“We were surprised it went so well.” Mr. Pearson and his brother Rutledge made their way through the crowds and stood beside a tree near the front of the stage. There they witnessed history. Mr. Pearson was moved and inspired by speeches he heard on that day. When asked about the outcome of the march Mr. Pearson said it helped to influence some people. Unfortunately President Kennedy was assassinated but the Voter’s Rights Act was signed by Johnson, and laws were put into place to help secure black equality. Mr. Pearson possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of the history of the NAACP, voter’s rights and the horrific act of lynching. He chairs or is active on a number of NAACP committees and he continues to conduct voter’s registration drives. This retired postal worker still believes in the “struggle.”