August 28, 1963: March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

A selection of articles and documents about the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Official Program for the March on Washington (1963)
Source: National Archives

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Source: King Encyclopedia, Stanford University, The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute
Audio – I Have a Dream, Address at March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom – August 28, 1963

 King delivers his

On 28 August 1963, more than 200,000 demonstrators took part in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the nation’s capital. The march was successful in pressuring the administration of John F. Kennedy to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress. During this event, Martin Luther King delivered his memorable ‘‘I Have a Dream’’ speech. The 1963 March on Washington had several precedents. In the summer of 1941 A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, called for a march on Washington, D. C., to draw attention to the exclusion of African Americans from positions in the national defense industry. This job market had proven to be closed to blacks, despite the fact that it was growing to supply materials to the Allies in World War II. The threat of 100,000 marchers in Washington, D.C., pushed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, which mandated the formation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission to investigate racial discrimination charges against defense firms. In response, Randolph cancelled plans for the march. ….

August 28, 1963: The March on Washington
Source: Richard Kreitner, The Nation, August 28, 2015

“After the civil-rights issue has been won, as it will be—that is, after all legally sanctioned forms of Jim Crow discrimination have been removed—what then?” Conservatives love to invoke a single line from Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial fifty-two years ago today as evidence of the civil rights leader’s commitment to all things red, white and blue—“the Great American Barbecue,” as The Nation’s editors put it in their editorial about the March on Washington—but even back in 1963 it was obviously to some (to the editors of The Nation, say) that the implications of the movement were a lot more radical. This was the great theme of the magazine’s coverage of King in the 1960s and of King’s writings for the magazine: that securing civil rights might be possible, but achieving economic justice for all would be much, much harder.

Photos: 18 historic images from the 1963 March on Washington
Ann Arbor Miller, Minnesota Public Radio, August 27, 2015

Witnesses to History, 50 Years Later
Source: New York Times, August 23, 2013

Buses as far as the eye could see. Fears of violence melting away into a powerful feeling of togetherness. A transcendent speech. Strangers hugging and tears of hope. Fifty years after the March on Washington, the mass protest that helped energize some of the most critical social legislation in the nation’s history, The New York Times asked readers who attended to recall their experiences and reflect on the legacy of that day. Out of hundreds of submissions, we present a selection of stories and anecdotes, edited and condensed from online submissions and follow-up interviews….

Commemorating 52nd Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
Source: Clarence B. Jones Huffington Post, August 22, 2015

During the past two weeks two great persons in the struggle against injustice, both of whom I knew, passed away. First was Julian Bond at the age of 75, the other was Louis Stokes, a 15-term former congressman from OH. He died at the age of 90. The death of these two social justice and political warriors were on my mind as I realized that next week our will be the 52nd anniversary of the August 28th, 1963 March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom. (Most persons associate their memory of The March with the soaring oratory of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.) The Black Lives Matter Movement, in response to the repetitive shootings of black men by police, and the failure in most instances, of any prosecutorial accountability, ISIS, illegal immigration, income inequality, mass incarceration, States’ legislative efforts to limit voting rights, continued deaths from Black gangs’ gun violence, and the media’s fixation on the Dem and Repub. primaries, can temporarily overwhelm ANY thoughtful reflection about that great assemblage of Black and white persons at the Lincoln Memorial, Wednesday afternoon,52 years ago….

Sounds of the Civil Rights Movement
Source: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings celebrates the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with this playlist of 1960s civil rights material. Composed of seminal recordings, this playlist highlights the important role that music played in uniting, energizing, expressing, and sustaining momentum among participants in the African American civil rights movement.

The Forgotten Radical History of the March on Washington
Source: William P. Jones, Dissent Magazine, Spring 2013

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which occurred fifty years ago this August 28, remains one of the most successful mobilizations ever created by the American Left. Organized by a coalition of trade unionists, civil rights activists, and feminists—most of them African American and nearly all of them socialists—the protest drew nearly a quarter-million people to the nation’s capital. Composed primarily of factory workers, domestic servants, public employees, and farm workers, it was the largest demonstration—and, some argued, the largest gathering of union members—in the history of the United States. That massive turnout set the stage not only for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President John F. Kennedy had proposed two months before, but also for the addition to that law of a Fair Employment Practices clause, which prohibited employers, unions, and government officials from discriminating against workers on the basis of race, religion, national origin, or sex. And, by linking those egalitarian objectives to a broader agenda of ending poverty and reforming the economy, the protest also forged a political agenda that would inspire liberals and leftists ranging from President Lyndon Johnson to the Black Power movement. ….