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Long journey completed: From the lunch counter to the Mall

January 20, 2009 |  6:44 am

WASHINGTON -- People descended upon the Mall outfitted like they were on an expedition to Kathmandu.

But once they arrived, some of them actually found room to sit down. It was like a winter picnic.

Charlotte Durante, 64, from Delray Beach, Fla., stepped across the soft ground of the Mall with a walker. She remembers being in Montgomery, Ala., in 1965 when civil rights marchers made it from Selma to Montgomery.

"This walker is nothing compared to what people went through in the civil rights era," Durante said. "I grew up in Alabama –- segregated classrooms, segregated bathrooms. We even had to use the back door to go into some businesses.

"I was part of the movement to work toward this day. I am just in awe at the people of all races here.

"It makes my heart flutter."

Durante was accompanied by her husband, Kenneth, and their 37-year-daughter, Lori. The Durantes own a property management service, and Charlotte said she was the first black female city commissioner in Delray Beach.

In the '60s, Kenneth participated in sit-ins at segregated Woolworth's lunch counters in Fayette County, N.C. “This was something we worked for," Charlotte said. "But we weren't thinking a black president. We were just working to sit at the lunch counter.”

-- Carla Hall

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