The March on Washington in 1963 was one of the most successful movements in the American history. Though the march was actually carried out in August 1963, the tension was building up throughout the year in the form of racial unrest.
The media coverage of the police atrocities against the protesters in various parts of the United States sparked civil rights demonstrations which continued throughout the year and eventually culminated with a political rally on August 28, 1963. Although not completely, it was inspired by the March on Washington Movement of 1940s to a certain extent.
March for Jobs and Freedom
The March on Washington of 1963 was a huge political rally which took place on August 28 in Washington DC. It began at the Washington Monument and ended with a cultural program at the Lincoln Memorial.
It was also the first protest march to be telecast exclusively on the national television. In fact, the media played a crucial role in the success of the March on Washington. Heavy police personnel were deployed citing the chances of the march turning violent, but it actually ended in a peaceful manner contradictory to the expectations of many.
Various civil right groups, labor organizations, and religious bodies came together to organize this march. 'Jobs and Freedom' was chosen as the theme, which was also an important component of the Civil Rights Movement that was taking shape in the backdrop.
The lengthy list of leaders of this movement included many names.
- A. Philip Randolph
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- John Lewis
- Roy Wilkins
- Whitney Young
- Bayard Rustin
Although these leaders lead from the front, they themselves had some differences of opinion on the purpose of the march. For NAACP and Urban League, this march was a gesture of support for the Civil Rights Bill introduced by the Kennedy administration.
However, the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and Congress of Racial Equality saw this as a tool to condemn the inability of the Kennedy administration.
While the exact figures are not available, an estimated 250,000 people are believed to have attended the march, thus making this the largest demonstration ever witnessed by Washington D.C. Approximately 80 percent of these were African-Americans, while the remaining 20 percent were whites and other ethnic groups.
In his address to the crowd, he referred to the march as 'the advance guard of a massive moral revolution for jobs and freedom.' He also put forth the list of demands by the protesters.
The demands by protesters included:
- Meaningful civil rights legislation
- End to all school segregation
- A $2 minimum wage
- Protection for all civil rights protesters
- Federal law prohibiting racial discrimination in the workplace
- Public works program for all unemployed
Many prominent leaders followed with speeches encouraging the people to step up their fight for civil rights. The movement and all its leaders got tremendous support from the enthusiastic crowd.
However, the man of the moment was undoubtedly Martin Luther King Jr. His 'I Have a Dream' speech, full of hope and determination, didn't just excite the crowd, but also made it to the history books as one of the greatest speeches ever made.
The march ended with King's speech at 4:20 PM, after which the leaders of the march met President Kennedy. The 1963 March on Washington was a huge success and it played an important role in the constitution of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which banned racial discrimination in public facilities and voting.
This was a demonstration of the power in a peaceful manner. In fact, many historians even went on to describe this march as 'a high tide phase of the Civil Rights Movement'.