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Berea woman remembers March on Frankfort with Martin Luther King Jr.

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Posted at 3:10 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-19 12:11:32-05

BEREA, Ky. (LEX 18) — Sharyn Mitchell was only 16 at the time, but she remembers the March on Frankfort like it was yesterday.

"When I look at today, other than it's not raining, it was a day like today," Mitchell recalled in an interview with LEX 18 Monday. "It was 30 degrees, and it was cold."

She said the energy was electric. She was one of 10,000 people marching and singing in unison.

"The thing that I remember the most was when they started singing "We Shall Overcome," she remembered. "And it just came up from the ground. There were thousands of people and there was just a rumbling. It still gives me chills to think about it."

The march, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a peaceful demonstration. It was intended to lobby support for a bill that would desegregate public accommodations in Kentucky.

"It was tension," Mitchell said. "But it was excitement. You felt a sense of inclusion."

As Mitchell reflected on the cold March day, she also thought about what King would say about the state our country is in today.

"I think he would be proud that we can stand up for ourselves," she said. "That we're learning to do that. That we're not having to walk with our heads down or whatever. That we can be proud."

However, she underscored that there is more work to be done and that the peaceful protests from this past summer were a good place to start and to continue King's work.

"I see that other people are beginning to understand what we've been going through for a long time, so that's heartening," she said.

She is hopeful that King's dream will fully morph into reality.

"It's going to be a good year," she hoped. "We don't know how it's going to end, but we know things are getting better."

The bill the marchers lobbied for, House Bill 197, did not pass. However, the Kentucky Civil Rights Act did pass in 1966.

According to the University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center, Frank Stanley, Jr. led a hunger strike in the House gallery after the march to get legislators to pass the bill.

"It never made it out of committee, but the subsequent Civil Rights Act of 1966 was passed in large part to the influence garnered by the march and hunger strike," the research center's website said.