CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Ron English was in the 4th grade when the Supreme Court came to its landmark civil rights decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case. He was in the 5th grade when Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus, spawning the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955.
And in 1963 - just a few years later, but an important period in those tumultuous years of the civil rights movement - English was 19, a recent high school graduate.
That's when English, now a minister at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Charleston, boarded a bus in Atlanta, bound for Washington, D.C., and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
"We decided to go up to the march, naturally, caught up in the enthusiasm of it," English said Tuesday, a day ahead of the 50th anniversary of the march.
They drove up by way of Lynchburg, Va., where they saw a noose hanging in the street - a message from locals that those driving to D.C. for the march should be wary.
"It was a sign, one of the threatening symbols that people were sending to deter people on their way," he said. "We weren't, though, because we knew it was a high point in the life of the movement."
English was an assistant minister to Martin Luther King Jr. at Ebenezer Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Sr. was also a minister. It was English's family church; his family name is inscribed in one of the church's cornerstones.
So English and his friend at the march, another young assistant minister from Ebenezer Church, came expecting great things from King. They got there as early as they could and situated themselves as close as 600 feet from the speakers.
In the crowd, English was near some of the other, less peaceful civil rights groups and said he witnessed some of the "behind the scenes tension" at the march - like negotiations between King and John Lewis, leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was interested in pushing a less peaceful, more militant message that day.
Lewis and the group eventually agreed.
"They really wanted to come together to promote a united front," English said. "That was a kind of unity that was marvelous to just feel and be a part of."
The March on Washington is often remembered for being the setting of King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech and for broadcasting a sense of accomplishment and unity across the civil rights movement.
English said that all those things are true, but they don't capture the complexity of that moment in history. He worries today's understanding of the march and much of the movement has been whitewashed with time - boiled down to a few palatable quotations from King's moving speech and anecdotes from a few successful sit-ins and protests.
The March on Washington came, for example, just after the Birmingham Campaign, a series of sit-ins and marches meant to prompt mass arrests, bringing attention to the severe segregation in Birmingham.
That was the first time King had recommended that children get involved in protests in the South, and when protesters were met with fire hoses and police dogs, he was roundly criticized for that recommendation.