The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech advocating racial harmony at the Lincoln Memorial during the march.
"I Have A Dream" is the popular name given to the public speech by Martin Luther King, Jr., when he spoke of his desire for a future where blacks and whites, among others, would coexist harmoniously as equals. King's delivery of the speech on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, was a defining moment of the American Civil Rights Movement. Delivered to over 250,000 civil rights supporters, the speech is often considered to be one of the greatest and most notable speeches in human history and was ranked the top American speech of the 20th century by a 1999 poll of scholars of public address.
According to U.S. Representative John Lewis, who also spoke that day as the President of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, "Dr. King had the power, the ability and the capacity to transform those steps on the Lincoln Memorial into a monumental area that will forever be recognized. By speaking the way he did, he educated, he inspired, he informed not just the people there, but people throughout America and unborn generations."
Some of Dr. King's words:
"In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, black men as well as white men - would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds.'"
"It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual."
"The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people. For many of our white brothers as evidenced by their presence here today have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We can not walk alone."
"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 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."
"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood."
"This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."
"Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children."
"Let freedom ring. And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring—when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children—black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics—will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
At the end of the speech, King departed from his prepared text for a partly improvised peroration on the theme of "I have a dream", possibly prompted by Mahalia Jackson's cry, "Tell them about the dream, Martin!" He had delivered a speech incorporating some of the same sections in Detroit in June 1963, when he marched on Woodward Avenue with Walter Reuther and the Reverend C. L. Franklin, and had rehearsed other parts.
The march was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, under the theme "jobs, and freedom."Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 (police) to over 300,000 (leaders of the march). About 80% of the marchers were African American and 20% white and other ethnic groups.
The march is widely credited as helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the National Voting Rights Act (1965).
Image & Text:wikipedia.com
My brother Sherry Bell was at the march before his senior year at Princeton.
For my birthdays two years in a row (before he took a middle year in France) when he was a Freshman and Sophomore and I was in fifth and sixth grade, Sherry gave me train tickets to spend a weekend with him at the university. I remember crossing the bridge at Trenton with the sign "Trenton Makes, the World Takes." Sherry would meet me at Princeton Junction. We saw Bill Bradley play basketball. I heard the Tiger Tones and Nassoons, and went to productions of the Triangle Club (foreshadowing my later involvement with Low Jinks at the Bohemian Club). I loved the University Chapel.
Sherry also took me to my first black Baptist services in Princeton. It was the first time I heard Gospel choirs. Sherry was very much concerned with Civil Rights and racial justice, and this was a few years before the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.