While known primarily throughout the world as the event that featured Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on Wednesday, August 28, 1963 was more than that.
The objective of the March was to raise the consciousness of the American public, and particularly it’s political leadership in Washington, to the economic, social, and political oppression suffered by African-Americans, and to seek political and legal redress. Conducted in the centenary year of the Emancipation Proclamation, the March was the culmination of decades of work by countless civil rights, labor, and religious leaders from throughout the United States. The original idea for the March came from A. Phillip Randolph, President of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and the lead organizer for the March was Bayard Rustin of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
In addition to the estimated 250,000 people who traveled to Washington from around the nation, prominent participants from all walks of American life participated.
Official program of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
It is generally recognized that the March had a profound effect on American attitudes about race, inequality, and the balance of political power. On a practical level, the March played a large part in the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968, as well as countless other laws and regulations throughout America. The March continues to inspire people around the world.
For more information see the Civil Rights Movement Veterans website.