March On Washington
By the 1960’s, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States had reached a peak. The movement was to try to make changes in jobs and freedom for Black Americans. It was organized by many of the nation’s religious and civil leaders and was based on the concept of peaceful demonstration.
On August 26, 1963, over 200,000 people showed up in Washington, D.C. to let the people and government know that the nation needed changes to get rid of discrimination against Black Americans. The government thought that there might be unrest and had set up trained guards, just in case, but there services were never needed.
The peaceful march included members of both black and white people from all areas of life. While the Civil Rights Act had been passed, the people that showed up in Washington, D.C. that day were there to prove that not enough was being done to get rid of the oppression that was being faced by Black Americans. They arrived, holding each other’s arms and singing the song “We shall overcome”.
The original name of the march was the March for Jobs and Freedom, but eventually just became known as the “March on Washington”. The organizers of the event were overwhelmed with people that wanted to be present. Musicians such as Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performed and singers included Mahalia Jackson and Josephine Baker.
The NAACP had put the idea of the march together and had originally thought that about 100,000 people would show up. They were pleased when over 200,000 people marched in peace and harmony to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Reporters and journalists from all over America were present to witness the day.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been asked to speak but had not really planned on it until they didn’t have anyone to give the last presentation. No one wanted to be last because they thought everyone would be heading home. King had only planned on four minutes and, of course, everyone stayed to hear the well-loved representative of the Civil Rights Movement talk. Dr. King stated a few words and then Mahalia Jackson yelled out from the background for him to “tell them about the dream”. She was talking about his idea that he had shared in a previous discussion.
It was at that moment that Dr. King gave his now famous “I have a dream” speech, that captivated the audience, brought tears to people’s eyes and gave hope to many that attended.
Just a part of the speech included:
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
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 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 the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
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 today!