JFK+50: Volume 6, No. 2052MARCH ON WASHINGTON PLUS 53
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) It was the largest demonstration for civil rights in the history of the United States of America. It was officially known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It is commonly remembered simply as the March on Washington. It happened fifty-three years ago today, August 28, 1963.
The march, attended by a quarter of a million people, was the brainchild of A. Philip Randolph who had attempted to lead a march in 1941 which never materialized but resulted in President Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order prohibiting discrimination in munition plants.
Mr. Randolph, who became the director of the March on Washington, had been counseling Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to hold a march on the Nation's Capital in 1963. President John F. Kennedy's speech on civil rights in June along with his submission of a civil rights bill, gave a strong boost to Randolph's idea.
The marchers carried signs in blue or red ink which read...
"We March for Higher Minimum Wages Coverage For All Workers Now"
"We March for Jobs For All Now"
"We Demand Equal Rights"
"Civil Rights Plus Full Employment Equals Freedom"
Speeches were made by notable civil rights activists including Josephine Baker and John Lewis. There were musical performances by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson and Peter, Paul and Mary. Entertainers Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando and Charlton Heston also attended.
The climax of the march came with the ringing words of Dr. King who said...
"I still have a dream. It is a dream that is deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal'.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
When we allow freedom (to) ring....we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old negro spiritual, 'Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we're free at last.'"
President Kennedy had been concerned that the march would turn violent and hurt chances for the passage of his civil rights legislation. When the day ended with no violence, the President was relieved and pleased.
After the march, Dr. King, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, Jr., John Lewis and A. Philip Randolph, met with President Kennedy at the White House. Mr. Lewis said that the President greeted each of them at the door of the Oval Office and congratulated them with the words, "You did a great job."
BlackPast.org says the March on Washington is "partly credited with winning the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964."
"March on Washington," www.history.com/
"March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom (August 28, 1963)," www.blackpast.org/
"We Shall Overcome: The History of the Civil Rights Movement As It Happened," by Herb Boyd, Sourcebooks, Inc. Naperville, Illinois, 2004.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.