St. Cloud man influential in 1963 march

Categories: Around the Diocese

There is a local connection to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Aug. 28, reminded Michael Hemmesch, director of media relations at St. John’s University, Collegeville.

Mathew Ahmann, a native of St. Cloud, organized the National Conference on Religion and Race in 1963 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Hemmesch said Ahmann’s success in leading this conference led to his appointment as one of the 10 chairmen for the March on Washington Aug. 28, 1963. Ahmann gave a speech during the March on Washington just minutes before Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ahmann graduated from St. John’s Preparatory School and then St. John’s University in 1952. Hemmesch called him one of the least known but most important fi­gures in the history of Catholic support for the civil rights movement in the ’60s.

Ahmann, who died in 2001, will be awarded the Colman J. Barry Award for Distinguished Contributions to Religion and Society posthumously from SJU in honor of his leadership and participation in the civil rights movement and for his lifelong commitment to social justice.

The award will be presented at the annual peace studies conference, sponsored by the CSB/SJU peace studies department, Oct. 14 at SJU.