MARCH ON WASHINGTON
Just like the Freedom Riders replicating an action of the past to gain the same rights that were fought for in the past, the March on Washington of 1963 was doing the same thing. Two separate plans for a march on Washington were called for, twenty years apart, with both being with the intended purpose in mind to dramatize the rights of black Americans, specifically their rights to vote and have access to economic achievement. In 1941, a man by the name of A. Philip Randolph had grown upset with the lack of help black Americans were receiving from the New Deal and threatened to lead 50,000 men on Washington. If it wasn’t for then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s executive order that forbade discrimination in terms of hiring, the march would have occurred. Twenty-two years later, the March was planned for similar reasons. Headed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Civil Rights Activists were hoping for Congress the Civil Rights Act which could grant black Americans economic equality.
Similar to President Roosevelt, President John F. Kennedy was not thrilled with the prospects of a march on Washington, but it was thought that anything short of the Civil Rights Act being passed would be not enough to dissuade the group from marching. Organized by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Dr. King’s organization: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the planned march was expected to have 100,000 participants or more. This was an understatement however, as more than 200,000 black and white Americans came from all around the country to march on Washington, sing song, say prayers together and listen to speeches from the likes of John Lewis, a student who was attacked during the freedom rides, and of course Dr. King. A day that could have been terrible and violent is now revered as a joyous day. The march culminated with Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech, which was symbolic for the remaining years of the Civil Rights fight, and is now famous in every corner of the United States.
The march did not immediately lead to the passing of the Civil Rights Act, it really didn’t directly lead to any substantial event, but it raised awareness so a never before seen level. This was the way for the major organizations fighting for racial equality to let people know that they were there, and were not going away. Like the planned march in the 1940’s, strife didn’t end after the march was finished, but the affirmation or hope, a belief that something could be accomplished with the right democratic involvement, and the faith in an ability to work together was plentiful.