The Antelope Valley branch of the NAACP will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington Saturday from 4-6 p.m. at Growing Valley Baptist Church, 44818 20th St. West, Lancaster.
The theme of this free event is “Remembering Our Past Embracing Our Future,” and it will consist of discussions of what must be done next in the light of the following and other concerns: the Supreme Court striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act; Stand Your Ground laws, and keeping the spirit of Trayvon Martin alive; the campaign to “remove the box” to help secure jobs in the Antelope Valley; Section 8; the denial of voting rights of Blacks and Latinos in Palmdale under the California Voting Rights; and the U.S. Department of Justice report and police misconduct.
People interested in attending must RSVP by calling (661) 222-8144.
The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was coordinated by the so-called “Big six” civil rights leaders—A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; Whitney M. Young Jr. of the National Urban League; Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; James Farmer, initiator of the 1961 freedom ride and a co-founder of the group that would become Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); Roy Wilkins head of the NAACP; and John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Bayard Rustin, who helped initiate a 1947 freedom ride and found SCLC, was chief organizer of the march.
The march attracted an estimated 250,000 people and was the scene of a seminal civil rights speech—Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” address.
The 1963 march was not the first such Black movement planned on Washington. One other was set to go more than 20 years before the successful 1963 event.
Upset over government hiring policies that discriminated against Blacks, Randolph and Rustin planned the first march on Washington in 1941.
Discrimination in the defense industry was particularly galling since African Americans were expected to be available to defend the nation but were otherwise treated as second-class citizens.
In May of that year, Randolph issued a “Call to Negro America to March on Washington for Jobs and Equal Participation in National Defense on July 1, 1941.” The response was immediate. By June, the numbers of those who were expected to rally to Randolph’s call had exploded to 50,000 by some estimates and to 100,000 by others.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried desperately to get the organizers to call off the march, but Randolph was determined to see it through to dramatize the unfair treatment of Blacks by the government. When every attempt to end the march failed, Roosevelt relented and issued Executive Order 8802, establishing the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) and barring discrimination in defense industries and federal bureaus. As a result of this action, Randolph called off the proposed march. By the end of 1944, nearly 2 million Blacks were employed in defense work. But the commission went out of existence in 1946, about five years later.