Once the teacher realized that the student's connection with an associate of Dr. King was not just a figment of her imagination, they rushed to invite him. The result was a truly unforgettable session for the pupils, joined by many of their parents, who had somehow heard about the presentation and lingered to listen.
Rich's relationship with the civil rights movement began when he arrived in 1946 to begin his studies at all -white Washington University in St. Louis. That condition soon changed when Rich, together with his fellow students, undertook their efforts to integrate the school. Nor did they stop there; they proceeded to organize a local chapter of CORE -- the Congress of Racial Equality--which at the time was in the forefront of the difficult and dangerous struggle to integrate the segregationist South.
Rich and his CORE colleagues met weekly, organizing protests, writing to government officials and newspapers, and distributing flyers aimed at pressuring the city's lunch counters and swimming pools to treat black and white patrons equally. CORE activists around the country were taking similar actions, and, though they weren't fully aware of it, were laying the groundwork for the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Some years later Rich went to work at the CORE office in New York, and at a CORE workshop he attended in Florida in 1958 he first met Martin Luther King Jr., whose organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was working very closely with CORE.