60 years ago, today, on August 28, 1963, over 250,000 people gathered near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. In search of freedom and jobs, this group marched on Washington demanding equality under the law. The impact of this march cannot be understated. It is believed that this event built the momentum needed in the Civil Rights Movement to pass the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act over the next two years.
The March on Washington was organized by the leaders the six large civil rights groups of the time. A peaceful demonstration, the protestors involved aimed to draw attention to the discrimination of Black Americans and their inability to find jobs created by the New Deal program. In a New York Times article written a few days before the march, we read, “In conception and in planning, the March on Washington is expressive of the American tradition of peaceable assembly and petition for a redress of grievances . . . the elimination of unequal treatment is the common responsibility of all of us. . .”
The March on Washington is perhaps best remembered for the speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in which he said, “I have a dream . . . I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood . . . I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Less than one year after this iconic speech was delivered, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, which prohibited discrimination in public places, integrated public schools, and ended employment discrimination.
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