CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Fifty years ago this week, 19-year-old Frances Shearin left her home on Longfellow Street in northwest Washington, D.C., seven months pregnant, and joined about 250,000 other people on the National Mall for the March on Washington.
"My husband was working and he was kind of reluctant to walk downtown, but I said, 'The doctors say I need to walk, good exercise,'" Shearin, who now lives on Charleston's West Side, said of that day.
Memories of the march are still fresh in her mind today.
"It was hot, oh it was hot. But it didn't matter because the men and women dressed up like they were going to church," Shearin said. "There was a certain stillness in that city that day. It was as if the rivers had stopped flowing and the wind was not blowing. None of that was going on.
"It was just a peacefulness, a tranquility of people coming together," she said.
"A whole lot of men with their children, fathers with their sons. The older men or the middle-aged men were dressed in suits and ties. It had to be 96, 97 degrees. To me it felt like 125 degrees."
Shearin sees the spirit of that day -- Aug. 28, 1963 -- and the messages imparted by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, showing up in modern America.
Last week a man sneaked into an elementary school in suburban Atlanta. He was dressed in all black and carrying an AK-47-style assault rifle with about 500 rounds of ammunition. He briefly exchanged fire with police, but no one, including the more than 800 students in the school, was hurt.
Most of the credit went to Antoinette Tuff, a 46-year-old school bookkeeper who talked the gunman into surrendering as she acted as intermediary between him and the police.
"It's going to be all right, sweetie," Tuff said to the gunman at one point, captured on the 911 call. "I just want you to know I love you."
The story resonated with Shearin.
"Three words, 'I love you.' She didn't see color. She saw a human being. She saw a child of God and she extended herself," Shearin said. "I love you. How often we don't say those words. And that's all Martin was trying to teach, was to love one another."
There has been undeniable progress made in the 50 years since King spoke on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Jim Crow laws, poll taxes, literacy tests and "whites only" facilities have been relegated to the past.
But West Virginians who were at the March on Washington 50 years ago, Shearin included, see King's dream as unfulfilled.
Black Americans are still overrepresented in unemployment numbers, poverty measures and the criminal justice system, and underrepresented in Ivy League classrooms and corporate boardrooms.
Similar issues today
In 1963, James Tolbert was 31 and working at the VA hospital in Martinsburg. He and a friend packed a couple of sandwiches and took the train from Harpers Ferry to Washington on the day of the march.
King talked that day about "the fierce urgency of now." "This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism," he said.
Just two years later, the civil rights movement achieved one of its biggest victories, when Congress passed the Voting Rights Act.
Tolbert, who lives in Charles Town, didn't think we'd still be confronting similar topics.
"I never imagined that 50 years later I'd still be talking about it," Tolbert said of the march. "That it would take another 50 years and then some of the issues that we protested that day would still be here."
Earlier this summer, in a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a key section of the Voting Rights Act, saying that it was no longer necessary.
Tolbert, who was the president of the West Virginia NAACP from 1986 to 2007, pointed to those state voting laws, among other things, as evidence that we still have a ways to go.