- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Hearing Martin Luther King deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington persuaded Raul Yzaguirre to fight for civil rights.

“It was a compelling dream because it included all Americans,” said Mr. Yzaguirre, 65, of Mount Airy, Md., who is now president and chief executive officer of the National Council of La Raza, a Hispanic interest group. “We need to get back to being inclusive. We need to tell all the stories of civil rights.”

Yesterday, the AARP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Library of Congress began a 35-city, 70-day “Voice of Civil Rights” bus tour to mark the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in hiring and public services, and the 50th anniversary of the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which ordered racial integration of public schools.

The bus tour traces the route of the 1960s Freedom Riders, blacks and whites who headed to the South in buses and cars to challenge segregation and help register blacks to vote — a mission that earned them mob beatings in some places. The aim of today’s bus tour is to create the world’s largest archive of firsthand accounts of the civil rights movement.

The bus, covered in civil rights photographs and sporting satellite on its roof, pulled out of the Mall and began its trek to the South after a send-off yesterday morning where Mr. Yzaguirre spoke. At each stop, participants, including journalists and photographers, will record stories from people who were alive during that period.

“We’re taking this ride because some history should never be repeated and some history should never be forgotten,” said Marie Smith, president of the AARP, a lobbying group for retirees. “We felt a duty, obligation, pride to pass along our hard-won knowledge to the generations coming behind us.”

The stories will be posted on the project’s Web site, www.voicesofcivilrights.org. In February, the information will be turned over to the Library of Congress, where the collection will be kept permanently, said Rick Bowers, director of the Civil Rights Project for the AARP. He did not say how many personal stories he expected to be collected during the tour.

The project, which began a year and a half ago, has collected more than 2,000 stories, Mr. Bowers said.

Voices of Civil Rights solicits stories from all perspectives, including those that were opposed to the movement, Mr. Bowers said.

“The point is to compile the real history of the time, from people who experienced the civil rights movement,” he said.

The bus tour will make its only stop in Virginia today, in Richmond. The tour is scheduled to end Oct. 16 in Las Vegas.

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