11 March 65 : More civil rights action and important memorials : Washington, USA

This continues the letter dated 9th March 1965, which began –

Dear family, 

Thursday 11th March

Today the weather was glorious, so much so that we took the afternoon off and went sightseeing, and also took a lot of pictures. I took pictures of the White House, and also of the people parading outside.

There was a lot of commotion outside, as there were 13 people on a ‘sit down’ inside the White House, having got in during the morning. The place was thick with cops, and the press, and TV men – but we saw no trouble.

(NOTE: This was the first ever sit-in to take place at the White House, and was a protest against the voting registration discriminations and violence against civil rights marchers taking place in Selma, Alabama, which were covered in Tony’s previous letter on the 9th March. You can find out more about this historic sit-in protest HERE)

Tony’s photo of Civil Rights demonstraters at the side entrance of the White House


We then went up to the top of the Washington Memorial and had a bird’s eye view of Washington. From the top we had a wonderful view of the Capitol Building which is one of the nicest buildings I have ever seen. It is pure white, and very Italian looking, with lots of statues all over it, just like Italian buildings. At night it is floodlit, and looks lovely.

We then dashed across to Arlington Cemetery. We just made it before the closing time, and this time we were able to go in.

We went to see the grave of President Kennedy. It’s on a grassy slope in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior. It is very simple at the moment, a mound of earth, covered with greenery, on which are placed Army and Navy hats (why they are there I don’t know).

From the mound of earth a flame burns continuously. On each side of the grave are two small headstones, one of his son who died after two days, and one marked ‘A baby girl Kennedy 1956’ which must have been a child of theirs which had died. A white fence surrounds the three graves, and two guards stand watch over it.

(Note: This was the temporary grave – JFK had been assassinated in November 1963.)

temporary grave of JFK Tony
Tony’s photograph of the temporary grave of John F Kennedy, which stood at the site before his final memorial was created.


Another very impressive monument was a large tomb which contains the entire crew of the battleship ‘Maine’ which was sunk during the war. Everyone was there – with their names engraved on the side of the tomb, from the cook, to the stoker, to the Captain.

The tomb is circular and from the centre rises the actual mast of the ship, and around it were other parts of the ship – including the anchor and the ship’s bell.

(NOTE: On 15 February 1898, the battleship USS Maine was in Havana Harbor protecting U.S. interests during the Cuban War of Independence. Suddenly the Maine exploded without warning and sank, along with 266 of her crew. There were just 89 survivors. 

An official enquiry soon blamed a Spanish mine and inflammatory newspaper headlines inflamed racist tensions. “Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!” became a popular rallying cry which helped to push America into the Spanish–American War later that year.

However it is now known that bituminous coal, which was used on the USS Maine,  releases a gas that causes spontaneous explosions.  It is now believed most likely that a fire in one of the ship’s coal bunkers ignited the five tons of explosives stored in its magazines.)

USS Maine Mast Memorial  Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7846378 By Cliff – originally posted to Flickr as USS Maine Mast Memorial, CC BY 2.0.


On Sunday I have to be in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m going with Colin, so we are going to be travelling together again.

First of all I was told to fly there, so I went out and got a ticket, but later I was told to meet Colin and drive there. So I am going up to Philadelphia to rendezvous with him, and set off for Ohio.

It’s about 500 miles west, so we should have a change of scenery. It is considered to be ‘Mid West’ and I am really looking forward to getting there. We are going in a new Ford Galaxy – so I shall be losing my fabulous red Mustang!!

To be continued… 

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New York times report on the White House protests, 11 March 1965. With thanks to http://sheilaryan.net/march-11-1965-white-house-sit-in/

3 thoughts on “11 March 65 : More civil rights action and important memorials : Washington, USA

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