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
Lexile: 950L

Assign to Google Classroom

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:

Filed Under:  
Assigned 594 times

  • Kitson-Mag
    1/12/2015 - 09:59 a.m.

    I think the march of Washington puts such an impact on people because martin was so special to theme because he stopped slavery for good.

  • Ahrajah-Mag
    1/12/2015 - 09:59 a.m.

    I think it had so many people because Mr.King made a great change for African Americans and others. It was a new start of life. People Agreed on the change and some people disagreed.

  • jalyen4-man
    1/12/2015 - 11:06 a.m.

    We would not be slaves but we would not have very many rights and also slavery ended in the early 1900's way before Martin Luther King was even born,thanks to Abraham Lincoln

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    1/12/2015 - 09:28 p.m.

    The March on Washington had a huge impact in the United States. I don't know why white people didn't get the idea that people if different races are equal a long time ago. If white people understood that everyone was equal, then slavery and segregation would not have happened. Obviously, the Europeans did not know that every one was racially equal because it was their first time seeing people of different skin color. That is understandable. But, in the 20th century, white people should have known better than to segregate people of different race.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why do you think the March on Washington had such an impact on people?
    Answer: The March on Washington had such an impact on people because probably that was the time when white people got the idea that everyone is racially equal.

  • ElleW-3
    1/13/2015 - 12:02 a.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.I think Martin Luther is an amazing inspiration for all races.

  • Genesis-Mag
    1/13/2015 - 09:46 a.m.

    i think the march on Washington was very important to black and a little bit of white without MTK. Then most people would be Slavs.

  • Ayden-Mag
    1/13/2015 - 09:47 a.m.

    Wow I can't believe that Martin Luther King Jr. was 34 when he did his popular "I Have A Dream" Speech. Something new i've learned i'm still suprised :)

  • Jamison-Mag
    1/13/2015 - 09:49 a.m.

    It tells so much information about Martian Luther King Jr. and it have cost a lot of money. L L L L L L L

  • Jamison-Mag
    1/13/2015 - 09:52 a.m.

    It tells so much information about Martian Luther King Jr. and it have cost a lot of money.Maybe 100 dollars or more or even more.

  • KevinL1122
    1/13/2015 - 11:19 a.m.

    I think that the March on Washington had such an impact on people was because first of all it was the biggest gathering ever in Washington D.C. That shows that a lot of people are against segregation and people there cared about this protest so much they came from other parts of the country.This impacted people because this protest got African-Americans closer to equal rights.

Take the Quiz Leave a comment