King's legacy: Remembering the March on Washington
King's legacy: Remembering the March on Washington Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses marchers during his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington in 1963. At left, a statue of King was dedicated last year (  AP photos)
King's legacy: Remembering the March on Washington
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It was spring of 1963. Leaders from the major United States civil rights organizations proposed a huge nonviolent demonstration for Civil Rights in Washington, D.C. It would be the largest the capital had ever seen. They called it the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." They set August 28, 1963 as the date.

"The idea of a major demonstration in Washington, in the nations capital, that brought together all of the major civil rights organizations would be a statement very different from what was happening around the country," says Harry Rubenstein. Rubenstein was a curator at the Smithsonians National Museum of American History. No protests that large had ever taken place in the U.S. before.

That summer day, a crowd of at least 250,000 gathered at the Washington Monument. No gathering that large had been held Washington, D.C. before. Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and other musicians performed for the crowd. Ken Howard, a student at Howard University, took the bus downtown to join the gathering. "The crowd was just enormous," he told Smithsonian magazine. "Kind of like the feeling you get when a thunderstorm is coming and you know it is going to really happen. There was an expectation and excitement that this march finally would make a difference."

Never had American activists planned so carefully behind the scenes. Volunteers prepared 80,000 50-cent boxed lunches (consisting of a cheese sandwich, a slice of poundcake and an apple). More than 2,200 chartered buses, 40 special trains, and 22 first-aid stations were brought in. So were eight 2,500-gallon water-storage tank trucks and 21 portable water fountains

Young and old, black and white, celebrities and ordinary citizens traveled from across the country. Some participants are still civil rights leaders today. They include John Lewis, Julian Bond, Harry Belafonte, Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Andrew Young.

The marchers proudly picketed down Washington, DCs Independence and Constitution Avenues to the Lincoln Memorial. The symbolism of a demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial was potent. It was timed to happen 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. It also followed President John F. Kennedys announcement that he would submit a civil rights bill to Congress. It transfixed the nation.

Fourteen speakers represented civil rights organizations, labor unions, and religions. From the podium, their messages built one upon another in a powerful crescendo. Then 34-year-old Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his now famous "I Have a Dream" speech. It catapulted King into a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement. It made him one of the nations most famous orators.

After the program, the marchers proceeded to the White House. There they met with President Kennedy. They entreated him to improve the civil rights legislation he was submitting to Congress.

The March on Washington proved to be a strong catalyst in passing the Civil Rights bills. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, which legally banned employment discrimination and segregation in public facilities. He signed the Voting Rights Act on August 6, 1965. "Its difficult for someone these days," says Howard, "to understand what it was like, to suddenly have a ray of light in the dark. Thats really what it was like."

Critical thinking challenge: Why do you think the March on Washington had such an impact on people?

Source URL: https://www.tweentribune.com/article/tween56/kings-legacy-remembering-march-washington/

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COMMENTS (213)
  • rikeya-Ela
    1/09/2015 - 03:23 p.m.

    IThink It Had So Much Impact On People Because They Felt Like Oh Yeah We Should Fight For Are Civil Rights In For What We Earned And For We Worked For. I Guess They Felt Like We Have Our Rights To Do What Rich Blacks And White Folks Do. They Think They Should Be Treated The Way They're Treated. And Not With Disrespect !

  • rikeya-Ela
    1/09/2015 - 03:23 p.m.

    I Think It Had So Much Impact On People Because They Felt Like Oh Yeah We Should Fight For Are Civil Rights In For What We Earned And For We Worked For. I Guess They Felt Like We Have Our Rights To Do What Rich Blacks And White Folks Do. They Think They Should Be Treated The Way They're Treated. And Not With Disrespect !

  • javierg-Ela
    1/09/2015 - 03:29 p.m.

    The March on Washington's impact on the people was to have a ray of light in the darkness.The March on Washington also proved to be a strong catalyst in passing the Civil Rights bills.

  • javierg-Ela
    1/09/2015 - 03:29 p.m.

    The March on Washington's impact on the people was to have a ray of light in the darkness.The March on Washington also proved to be a strong catalyst in passing the Civil Rights bills.

  • Nzigo Pierre-Dou
    1/09/2015 - 04:31 p.m.

    I think the march on Washington was very important to black and some white without Mr.King some people with still be slaves. major demonstration in Washington was the march

  • Matthewd-4
    1/09/2015 - 06:46 p.m.

    We should all ways remember Martin Luther king jr because he helped si many people and worked hard to make a change in the world and stop racism. We should never forget who he was because he helped so many people.

  • JackR-5
    1/11/2015 - 09:23 p.m.

    One of the largest protests in American history, the civil rights movement change our nation. Over 250,000 people came to Washington DC. There they had many different amenities including water food and first aid stations. The only time that Washington is seen this many people was when Bob Dylan and other artists performed a concert. Martin Luther King Junior and other people spoke at the movement. After speaking they moved onto the White House, and had a meeting with John Kennedy. Eventually the civil rights movement was changed. I think it is amazing that over 250,000 people can unite as one to fight for a cause.all these people phot for a good thing and won what they were fighting for.

  • joshz-Koc
    1/11/2015 - 11:50 p.m.

    it's good to have a memorial for him because he changed America. he made it so we aren't segregating blacks and they aren't looked down upon. MLK died for this

  • paigeb-Koc
    1/12/2015 - 02:56 a.m.

    I think this is a very important thing for people because it impacted everyone. It was a huge push towards civil rights. With out it, it would have taken longer for blacks to get equal rights.

  • Nate-Mag
    1/12/2015 - 09:45 a.m.

    Leaders from the major United States civil rights proposed a larg demonstration for Civil Rights in Washington, D. C. capital on March for Jobs and Freedom.

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