The March on Washington, 50 Years Later

Martin Luther King, Jr. (left), Senator Everett Dirksen, R-Ill. (right), and John Lewis (far right) meet shortly before King's "I Have a Dream" speech during the March on Washington in August 1963.
National Journal
Mike Magner
Aug. 18, 2013, 7:37 a.m.

For the next 10 days Wash­ing­ton will be trans­por­ted a half-cen­tury back in time to re­live one of the most power­ful and de­fin­ing mo­ments in Amer­ic­an his­tory.

The March on Wash­ing­ton brought more than a quarter-mil­lion people to the na­tion’s cap­it­al on Aug. 28, 1963, for what many con­sider a key turn­ing point in the civil-rights move­ment. The his­tor­ic rally was high­lighted by the “I Have a Dream” speech de­livered by the Rev. Mar­tin Luth­er King Jr. on the steps of the Lin­coln Me­mori­al.

Few real­ized it at the time — King’s speech did not even make the front page of The Wash­ing­ton Post the next day — but the calls for equal justice that echoed across the Na­tion­al Mall 50 years ago would be at least par­tially real­ized a year later with en­act­ment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Now, in the face of some erosion of the land­mark law and dur­ing a time of on­go­ing ra­cial ten­sions in the United States, hun­dreds of thou­sands of march­ers plan to re­turn to Wash­ing­ton to com­mem­or­ate the events of 1963 with not one, but two massive ral­lies on the Mall and a week-long series of ser­vices, dis­cus­sions, and cel­eb­ra­tions centered around the theme of “Jobs, Justice, and Free­dom.”

“The re­sponse to our call to com­mem­or­ate the March on Wash­ing­ton and my fath­er’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech has been over­whelm­ing,” said Ber­nice A. King, who was ex­actly five months old when her fath­er gave his best-known speech. “We ex­pect hun­dreds of thou­sands of people to join us in the na­tion’s cap­it­al for this his­tor­ic event, and many more to take part world­wide in their com­munit­ies.”

King, who now heads the fam­ily’s King Cen­ter in At­lanta, has been the driv­ing force be­hind the com­mem­or­a­tion events that kick off in Wash­ing­ton on Wed­nes­day with a wor­ship ser­vice at the Mt. Airy Baptist Church just north of the Cap­it­ol.

But since the ini­tial or­gan­iz­ing meet­ing about a year ago in At­lanta, at­ten­ded by about 30 civil-rights lead­ers, at least 200 people have been work­ing stead­ily to plan a series of events that would ap­pro­pri­ately mark the 50th an­niversary of the March on Wash­ing­ton, said King Cen­ter spokes­man Steve Klein.

The biggest event in terms of par­ti­cipants will be the “Real­ize the Dream March and Rally” to be held Sat­urday on the Na­tion­al Mall. Or­gan­ized by Mar­tin Luth­er King III, King’s old­est son, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, lead­er of the Na­tion­al Ac­tion Net­work based in Har­lem, “it is go­ing to be huge,” Klein said. “Nobody knows” how many people will show up, but it will al­most cer­tainly be in the hun­dreds of thou­sands, he said.

Par­ti­cipants will gath­er at the Lin­coln Me­mori­al on Sat­urday morn­ing “to stand to­geth­er against the re­cent at­tack on voter rights, against Stand Your Ground and ra­cial pro­fil­ing, and to con­tin­ue to raise aware­ness on un­em­ploy­ment, poverty, gun vi­ol­ence, im­mig­ra­tion, gay rights and oth­er crit­ic­al is­sues af­fect­ing our na­tion,” the Na­tion­al Ac­tion Net­work said in a state­ment about the rally.

On Fri­day the “Glob­al Free­dom Fest­iv­al” be­gins in West Po­tom­ac Park and will con­tin­ue through the week­end. The fest­iv­al is sponsored by the King Cen­ter and groups in­volved in the 1963 march, in­clud­ing the NAACP, the South­ern Chris­ti­an Lead­er­ship Con­fer­ence, and the Na­tion­al Urb­an League.

The main event will be the “Let Free­dom Ring Com­mem­or­a­tion and Call to Ac­tion Ce­re­mony” at the Lin­coln Me­mori­al on the af­ter­noon of  Aug. 28. Pres­id­ent Obama will speak from the same spot where King gave the “I Have a Dream” speech. He will be joined by former Pres­id­ents Carter and Clin­ton and a host of polit­ic­al and cul­tur­al lead­ers, in­clud­ing act­or Jam­ie Foxx and Lynda John­son Robb, daugh­ter of the pres­id­ent who signed the Civil Rights Act.

Some mem­bers of Con­gress are ex­pec­ted to par­ti­cip­ate in the week of events, even though the Au­gust re­cess has most law­makers away from Wash­ing­ton. The Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus held a com­mem­or­a­tion of the March on Wash­ing­ton be­fore re­cess began and many of its mem­bers plan to par­ti­cip­ate in Sat­urday’s march, said CBC spokes­wo­man Ay­ofemi Kirby.

What We're Following See More »
FORMERLY THE DEPT’S TOP ATTORNEY
Transportation Sec. Names Special Adviser for Metro System
6 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has appointed a veteran legal insider with strong personal ties to the Obama administration to serve as his special adviser focused exclusively on fixing the Washington region’s troubled Metro system. Kathryn Thomson, who was expected to leave her job as the Department of Transportation’s top lawyer, instead will stay on as Foxx’s special adviser on Metro oversight." She'll start this week.

Source:
DEATH PENALTY CASE
SCOTUS Finds Racial Bias in Jury Selection
9 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that prosecutors in Georgia violated the Constitution by striking every black prospective juror in a death penalty case against a black defendant. The vote was 7 to 1, with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting. The case, Foster v. Chatman, No. 14-8349, arose from the 1987 trial of Timothy T. Foster, an African-American facing the death penalty for killing Queen Madge White, an elderly white woman, when he was 18."

Source:
RETRACTED FUNDING
Congressional Report Says NFL Tried To Influence Concussion Study
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

report from House Democrats charges that NFL officials retracted funding for a $16 million NIH study on head injuries after repeated unsuccessful attempts to direct the money away from a Boston University researcher and instead to scientists who might be more favorable to the league. Democrats have been trying to go after the NFL over its handling of concussion science, although the sport's popularity and increased lobbying presence has made that difficult. The new revelations about meddling in the NIH study should offer more ammo. 

Source:
LETS LOWER COURT RULING STAND
SCOTUS Denies Appeal from Virginia GOP
11 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A unanimous Supreme Court has dismissed a Republican appeal over congressional districts in Virginia. The justices on Monday left in place a decision by a lower court that said Virginia illegally packed black voters into one district to make adjacent districts safer for Republican incumbents." The Court said the Republican elected officials who challenged the decision did not have standing to do so.

Source:
THE QUESTION
How Much Has Trump Loaned His Campaign?
16 hours ago
THE ANSWER

"More than $43 million, although the loans are loans in name only — Trump says he has no intention of recouping the cash."

Source:
×