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February Is Black History Month

[b]March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom[/b]

[c=000000]The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, also known as simply the March on Washington or The Great March on Washington,[1][2] was held in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963.[3] The purpose of the march was to advocate for the civil and economic rights of African Americans. At the march, final speaker Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech in which he called for an end to racism.[4]

The march was organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, who built an alliance of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations[5] that came together under the banner of "jobs and freedom."[6] Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000,[7] but the most widely cited estimate is 250,000 people.[8] Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black.[9] The march was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history.[6] Walter Reuther, president of the United Auto Workers, was the most integral and highest-ranking white organizer of the march.[10][11]

The march is credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964.[12][13] It preceded the Selma Voting Rights Movement, when national media coverage contributed to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that same year[/c]


African Americans were legally freed from slavery under the Thirteenth Amendment and granted citizenship in the Fourteenth Amendment, and African American men were elevated to the status of citizens and granted full voting rights by the Fifteenth Amendment in the years soon after the end of the American Civil War, but conservative Democrats regained power after the end of the Reconstruction era (in 1877) and imposed many restrictions on people of color in the South. At the turn of the century, Southern states passed constitutions and laws that disenfranchised most black people and many poor whites, excluding them from the political system. The whites imposed social, economic, and political repression against black people into the 1960s, under a system of legal discrimination known as Jim Crow laws, which were pervasive in the American South. Black people suffered discrimination from private businesses as well, and most were prevented from voting, sometimes through violent means.[15] Twenty-one states prohibited interracial marriage.[16]

During the 20th century, civil rights organizers began to develop ideas for a march on Washington, DC, to seek justice. Earlier efforts to organize such a demonstration included the March on Washington Movement of the 1940s. A. Philip Randolph—the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, president of the Negro American Labor Council,[7] and vice president of the AFL–CIO—was a key instigator in 1941. With Bayard Rustin, Randolph called for 100,000 black workers to march on Washington,[5] in protest of discriminatory hiring during World War II by U.S. military contractors and demanding an Executive Order to correct that.[17] Faced with a mass march scheduled for July 1, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 on June 25.[18] The order established the Committee on Fair Employment Practice and banned discriminatory hiring in the defense industry, leading to improvements for many defense workers.[19] Randolph called off the March.[20]

Randolph and Rustin continued to organize around the idea of a mass march on Washington. They envisioned several large marches during the 1940s, but all were called off (despite criticism from Rustin).[21] Their Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, held at the Lincoln Memorial on May 17, 1957, featured key leaders including Adam Clayton Powell, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Roy Wilkins. Mahalia Jackson performed.[22]

The 1963 march was part of the rapidly expanding Civil Rights Movement, which involved demonstrations and nonviolent direct action across the United States.[23] 1963 marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln. Leaders represented major civil rights organizations. Members of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference put aside their differences and came together for the march. Many whites and black people also came together in the urgency for change in the nation.

That year violent confrontations broke out in the South: in Cambridge, Maryland; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Goldsboro, North Carolina; Somerville, Tennessee; Saint Augustine, Florida; and across Mississippi. In most cases, white people attacked nonviolent demonstrators seeking civil rights.[24] Many people wanted to march on Washington, but disagreed over how the march should be conducted. Some called for a complete shutdown of the city through civil disobedience. Others argued that the civil rights movement should remain nationwide in scope, rather than focus its energies on the nation's capital and federal government.[25] There was a widespread perception that the Kennedy administration had not lived up to its promises in the 1960 election, and King described Kennedy's race policy as "tokenism".[26]

On May 24, 1963, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy invited African-American novelist James Baldwin, along with a large group of cultural leaders, to a meeting in New York to discuss race relations. However, the meeting became antagonistic, as black delegates felt that Kennedy did not have an adequate understanding of the race problem in the nation. The public failure of the meeting, which came to be known as the Baldwin–Kennedy meeting, underscored the divide between the needs of Black America and the understanding of Washington politicians. But the meeting also provoked the Kennedy administration to take action on the civil rights for African Americans.[27] On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy gave a notable civil rights address on national television and radio, announcing that he would begin to push for civil rights legislation. That night (early morning of June 12, 1963), Mississippi activist Medgar Evers was murdered in his own driveway, further escalating national tension around the issue of racial inequality.[28] After Kennedy's assassination, his proposal was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Planning and organization

A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin began planning the march in December 1961. They envisioned two days of protest, including sit-ins and lobbying followed by a mass rally at the Lincoln Memorial. They wanted to focus on joblessness and to call for a public works program that would employ black people. In early 1963 they called publicly for "a massive March on Washington for jobs".[29] They received help from Stanley Aronowitz of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers; he gathered support from radical organizers who could be trusted not to report their plans to the Kennedy administration. The unionists offered tentative support for a march that would be focused on jobs.[30]

On May 15, 1963, without securing the cooperation of the NAACP or the Urban League, Randolph announced an "October Emancipation March on Washington for Jobs".[31] He reached out to union leaders, winning the support of the UAW's Walter Reuther, but not of AFL–CIO president George Meany.[32] Randolph and Rustin intended to focus the March on economic inequality, stating in their original plan that "integration in the fields of education, housing, transportation and public accommodations will be of limited extent and duration so long as fundamental economic inequality along racial lines persists."[33] As they negotiated with other leaders, they expanded their stated objectives to "Jobs and Freedom", to acknowledge the agenda of groups that focused more on civil rights.[34]

Leaders of the March on Washington meeting with Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy at the White House on June 22, 1963.
In June 1963, leaders from several different organizations formed the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership, an umbrella group to coordinate funds and messaging.[35] This coalition of leaders, who became known as the "Big Six", included: Randolph, chosen as titular head of the march; James Farmer, president of the Congress of Racial Equality; John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference;[7] Roy Wilkins, president of the NAACP;[7] and Whitney Young, president of the National Urban League. King in particular had become well known for his role in the Birmingham campaign and for his Letter from Birmingham Jail.[36] Wilkins and Young initially objected to Rustin as a leader for the march, worried that he would attract the wrong attention because he was a homosexual, a former Communist, and a draft resister.[32] They eventually accepted Rustin as deputy organizer, on the condition that Randolph act as lead organizer and manage any political fallout.[37]

About two months before the march, the Big Six broadened their organizing coalition by bringing on board four white men who supported their efforts: Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers; Eugene Carson Blake, former president of the National Council of Churches; Mathew Ahmann, executive director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice; and Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress. Together, the Big Six plus four became known as the "Big Ten."[38][39] John Lewis later recalled, "Somehow, some way, we worked well together. The six of us, plus the four. We became like brothers."[39]

On June 22, the organizers met with President Kennedy, who warned against creating "an atmosphere of intimidation" by bringing a large crowd to Washington. The civil rights activists insisted on holding the march. Wilkins pushed for the organizers to rule out civil disobedience and described this proposal as the "perfect compromise". King and Young agreed. Leaders from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), who wanted to conduct direct actions against the Department of Justice, endorsed the protest before they were informed that civil disobedience would not be allowed. Finalized plans for the March were announced in a press conference on July 2.[40] President Kennedy spoke favorably of the March on July 17, saying that organizers planned a peaceful assembly and had cooperated with the Washington, D.C., police.[41]

Leaders of the march in front of the statue of Abraham Lincoln: (sitting L-R) Whitney Young, Cleveland Robinson, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King Jr., and Roy Wilkins; (standing L-R) Mathew Ahmann, Joachim Prinz, John Lewis, Eugene Carson Blake, Floyd McKissick, and Walter Reuther
Mobilization and logistics were administered by Rustin, a civil rights veteran and organizer of the 1947 Journey of Reconciliation, the first of the Freedom Rides to test the Supreme Court ruling that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel. Rustin was a long-time associate of both Randolph and Dr. King. With Randolph concentrating on building the march's political coalition, Rustin built and led the team of two hundred activists and organizers who publicized the march and recruited the marchers, coordinated the buses and trains, provided the marshals, and set up and administered all of the logistic details of a mass march in the nation's capital.[42] During the days leading up to the march, these 200 volunteers used the ballroom of Washington DC radio station WUST as their operations headquarters.[43]

The march was not universally supported among civil rights activists. Some, including Rustin (who assembled 4,000 volunteer marshals from New York), were concerned that it might turn violent, which could undermine pending legislation and damage the international image of the movement.[44] The march was condemned by Malcolm X, spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, who termed it the "farce on Washington".[45]

March organizers disagreed about the purpose of the march. The NAACP and Urban League saw it as a gesture of support for the civil rights bill that had been introduced by the Kennedy Administration. Randolph, King, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) believed it could raise both civil rights and economic issues to national attention beyond the Kennedy bill. CORE and SNCC believed the march could challenge and condemn the Kennedy administration's inaction and lack of support for civil rights for African Americans.[5]

Despite their disagreements, the group came together on a set of goals:

Passage of meaningful civil rights legislation;
Immediate elimination of school segregation (the Supreme Court had ruled that segregation of public schools was unconstitutional in 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education);
A program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed;
A Federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring;
A $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide (equivalent to $18 in 2021);
Withholding Federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination;
Enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from States that disenfranchise citizens;
A Fair Labor Standards Act broadened to include employment areas then excluded;
Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights of citizens are violated.[46]
Although in years past, Randolph had supported "Negro only" marches, partly to reduce the impression that the civil rights movement was dominated by white communists, organizers in 1963 agreed that white and black people marching side by side would create a more powerful image.[47]

The Kennedy Administration cooperated with the organizers in planning the March, and one member of the Justice Department was assigned as a full-time liaison.[48] Chicago and New York City (as well as some corporations) agreed to designate August 28 as "Freedom Day" and give workers the day off.[49]

To avoid being perceived as radical, organizers rejected support from Communist groups. However, some politicians claimed that the March was Communist-inspired, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) produced numerous reports suggesting the same.[50][51] In the days before August 28, the FBI called celebrity backers to inform them of the organizers' communist connections and advising them to withdraw their support.[52] When William C. Sullivan produced a lengthy report on August 23 suggesting that Communists had failed to appreciably infiltrate the civil rights movement, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover rejected its contents.[53] Strom Thurmond launched a prominent public attack on the March as Communist, and singled out Rustin in particular as a Communist and a gay man.[54]

Organizers worked out of a building at West 130th St. and Lenox in Harlem.[55] They promoted the march by selling buttons, featuring two hands shaking, the words "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom", a union bug, and the date August 28, 1963. By August 2, they had distributed 42,000 of the buttons. Their goal was a crowd of at least 100,000 people.[49]

As the march was being planned, activists across the country received bomb threats at their homes and in their offices. The Los Angeles Times received a message saying its headquarters would be bombed unless it printed a message calling the president a "Nigger Lover". Five airplanes were grounded on the morning of August 28 due to bomb threats. A man in Kansas City telephoned the FBI to say he would put a hole between King's eyes; the FBI did not respond. Roy Wilkins was threatened with assassination if he did not leave the country[/c]
Zonuss · 41-45, M Best Comment
Thanks for sharing this important piece of information here.

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