March on Washington: Event sign maker in 1963 remembers the day

WASHINGTON (WJLA) – John Nelson was only 14 years old on the morning of the March on Washington in 1963. He and a friend ran from their Northeast D.C. neighborhood to the Mall, and soon were put to work making hundreds of signs for the event.

“So we went up there, saw all these people, and got very excited about it because we've never seen that many black people – that was exciting," he said.

That single day sparked a lifelong passion for art for Nelson. He would spend much of the next 50 years creating art work in order to paint a positive image of African-Americans.

"It changed my life," he said. "I didn't realize how much talent I had, I didn't realize how deep it was that I made a living off my work."

And it has come full-circle now, as Nelson has been commissioned by the Park Service to create the official March on Washington Anniversary t-shirts and souvenirs.

And at last weekend’s march on the Mall, Nelson was even able to pose with one of the original posters that he helped to make 50 years ago.