Press/Journalists

Press Release
January 11, 2012

1963 March on Washington Mystery Girl Identified in New National Archives Video Short Inside the Vaults Video in Honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday

Washington, DC…On August 28, 1963, a photographer working for the United States Information Agency (USIA) took a picture which has become an iconic image of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The photograph, in the holdings of the National Archives, is of a young African-American girl, holding a March on Washington banner and concentrating intently on the scene before her.  The image has been reproduced countless times in history books, on calendars and most recently in the National Park Service brochure for the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC.

The identity of the little girl was always a mystery – until now.

Her story is told in a new 3:05 minute  Inside the Vaults video short produced by the National Archives to celebrate the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr.  View the video on the National Archives YouTube channel: http://tiny.cc/MLKmarch

Edith Lee-Payne of Detroit, Michigan, celebrated her 12th birthday by attending the March on Washington with her mother.  She had no idea she had been photographed, let alone that over the years her face had become so well-known.  Recently her sister saw the photograph in a calendar celebrating African-American history.  She told Ms. Lee-Payne, who says she is still “in shock.”  Also appearing in the video is National Archives supervisory archivist Ed McCarter and the photographer to whom the image is attributed, Rowland Scherman.  In addition to the famous image of Ms. Lee-Payne, many other USIA photos from that day are shown.

Background on “Inside the Vaults”

“Inside the Vaults” is part of the ongoing effort by the National Archives to make its collections, stories, and accomplishments more accessible to the public. “Inside the Vaults” gives voice to Archives staff and users, highlights new and exciting finds at the Archives, and reports on complicated and technical subjects in easily understandable presentations.  Earlier topics include the conservation of the original Declaration of Independence, the new Grace Tully collection of documents at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, the transfer to the National Archives of the Nuremberg Laws, and the launch of a new National Archives user-friendly search engine. The film series is free to view and distribute on our YouTube channel at: http://tiny.cc/Vaults

Created by a former broadcast network news producer, the "Inside the Vaults" video shorts series presents “behind the scenes” exclusives and offer surprising glimpses of the National Archives treasures.  These videos are in the public domain and not subject to any copyright restrictions.  The National Archives encourages the free distribution of them.

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For Press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at (202) 357-5300.

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