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The March on Washington Essay

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The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom occurred in Washington D.C on the 28th of August, 1963. Attended by some 250,000 people, it was the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation’s capital, and one of the first to have extensive television coverage.( Source 3) The march started because of employment discrimination against African-Americans who were forced into lower paying positions, Labor leaders and elder statesmen’s of the civil rights movement A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin had initially planned a march in 1941.

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Directors of the Major Civil Rights Organization went to work on behalf of the proposed legislation. In the political sense, the march was organized by coalition of organizations and their leaders including: Randolph who was chosen as the titular head of the march, James Farmer (president of the Congress of Racial Equality ), John Lewis ( chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) , Martin Luther King, Jr. (president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference), Roy Wilkins (president of the NAACP), Whitney Young (president of the National Urban League).

( Source 3) They determined that the most efficient strategy would be a public show of support in the nation’s capital. In the spring of 1963, Randolph revived his proposal on the march. The “March for Jobs and Freedom,” as it was called, demanded desegregation of public facilities, as end to discrimination and employment, decent housing, and education, and the right to vote. The march won endorsement of every major civil rights organization. ( Englebert Pg 80) However, the plan had one flaw, and President Kennedy addressed it. President Kennedy requested thirty civil rights leaders for a conference at the White House, and tried to persuade them out of the march, because Kennedy thought the march would harm the chances of passage of his civil rights bill; he also feared that the demonstration could turn brutal.

Since there were already African-Americans holding demonstrations across America, he responded to President Kennedy by saying this “If they are bound to be in the streets in any case,” said Randolph, “ is it not better that they be led by organizations decided to civil rights and disciplined by struggle rather than leave them to other leaders who care neither about civil rights nor about nonviolence?” A. Philip Randolph ( Engleberts Pg 80) Even though President Kennedy was still undecided about their plan of a national march, President Kennedy commanded officials of administration to support the March organizers.

The march started at the Washington Monument and finished at the Lincoln Memorial with a program of music and speakers. The march unsuccessfully started on time because the leaders were meeting with the members of Congress. By surprise to the leaders, the assembled group started to march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial without them. The 1963 March also spurred anniversary marches that occur every five years, with the 20th and 25th being some of the most well known. The 25th Anniversary theme was “We Still have a Dream…Jobs*Peace*Freedom.” ( Source 2)

1. Englebert, Phillis, American civil rights almanac- Volume 1. 1999, Boston. 2.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/March_on_Washington_for_Jobs_and_Freedom 3.http://www.infoplease.com/spot/marchonwashington.html

4. http://uquoted.com/the-march-on-washington-affirmed-our-values-as-a-people-equality-and-opportunity-for-all-forty-one-years-ago-during-a-time-of-segregation-these-were-an-ideal/

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