Interview with Courtland Cox
QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

LET ME JUST BREAK YOU UP. I'M JUST REALLY INTERESTED IN, THE LOGISTICS OF THE ACTUAL CHANGING OF THE SPEECH. YEAH…

Courtland Cox:

All right. We were on top of the Lincoln Memorial and ah Bayard asked us to change the speech and we told him that we weren't going to change the speech and that, you know, it, we, you know, you'd have to do it over our dead bodies. We weren't going to change it. Then he went down, during—, in the crowd and got A. Philip Randolph.** And A. Philip Randolph said, "I have waited twenty-two years for this. Would you young men please accommodate an old man?" And he had, By—I mean ah Rustin, not Rustin, Randolph speaks in these stentorian tones and he was kind of coming at us and I think Forman, myself, and John Lewis were quite overwhelmed by his request. Here's a man, I think in 1963, Randolph must have been about seventy-five. He must be about ninety now. So he was seventy-five and here we were, you know, one-third his age, and you know he was asking us to do this for him. He said "I, I waited all my life for, for this opportunity; please, don't ruin it," and we felt that, for him, that we had to, to make some concessions.** And, but, the, the march had already started; the speeches had already started, Baldwin had begun to speak, Belafonte was introducing all the five planes of movie stars that he had brought in, so we were in the midst of, you know, trying to change a speech that had been sent out to the press in the midst of this ah, in the midst of, of this gathering and John, John had not even seen the speech changes that we were making. So, so Forman would type a page he'd give it to me; I'd look at it, and say it's all right, all right, you know held type another page and then I'd give it to John, then after I read it, then John would try to quick read it, to see if, you know to get the feel of it but I, I, I think as it came out, it probably ah, probably brought much more attention to John's speech because the focus of the change that was made and why it was made from, from, from the original to, to the changes ah, got a lot of press attention and so forth and I think in the last analysis I think most people remember the speech that got changed and probably, and, and, I Have A Dream, of course, who could forget that? And, and John Lewis' speech. Those were the two speeches of the march.