March on Washington

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    What was it?

    What was it?
    The March on Washington was a massive protest march that occurred in August 1963, when some 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Also known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the event aimed to draw attention to continuing challenges and inequalities faced by African Americans a century after emancipation. It was also the occasion of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s now-iconic “I Have A Dream”
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    Officially called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the historic gathering took place on August 28, 1963. Some 250,000 people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial, and more than 3,000 members of the press covered the event.
  • Antecedents

    In 1941, A. Philip Randolph, head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and an elder statesman of the civil rights movement, had planned a mass march on Washington to protest Black soldier's exclusion from World War II defense jobs and New Deal programs
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    In the mid-1940s, Congress cut off funding to the FEPC, and it dissolved in 1946; it would be another 20 years before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was formed to take on some of the same issues.
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    Meanwhile, with the rise of the charismatic young civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. in the mid-1950s, Randolph proposed another mass march on Washington in 1957, hoping to capitalize on King’s appeal and harness the organizing power of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
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    In May 1957, nearly 25,000 demonstrators gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the third anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education ruling, and urge the federal government to follow through on its decision in the trial.
  • Speech

    Speech
    King agreed to speak last, as all the other presenters wanted to speak earlier, figuring news crews would head out by mid-afternoon. Though his speech was scheduled to be four minutes long, he ended up speaking for 16 minutes, in what would become one of the most famous orations of the civil rights movement—and of human history
  • I have a dream

    I have a dream
    Though it has become known as the “I Have a Dream” speech, the famous line wasn’t actually part of King’s planned remarks that day. After leading into King’s speech with the classic spiritual “I’ve Been ‘Buked, and I’ve Been Scorned,” gospel star Mahalia Jackson stood behind the civil rights leader on the podium.
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    At one point during his speech, she called out to him, “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin, tell ‘em about the dream!” referring to a familiar theme he had referenced in earlier speeches.
    King then launched into the most famous part of his speech that day: “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” From there, he built to his dramatic ending, in which he announced the tolling of the bells of freedom from one end of the country to the other.
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    In 1963, in the wake of violent attacks on civil rights demonstrators in Birmingham, Alabama, momentum built for another mass protest on the nation’s capital.