Stamp artist Gregory Manchess of New York City, depicts marchers against the background of the Washington Monument. Placards calling for equal rights and jobs for all — two principal themes of the march — are prominently displayed. Using broad strokes and painting with oils on gessoed illustration board, Manchess conveys an impressionistic effect of the historic occasion.
Early in the morning of Aug. 28, 1963, hours before the March on Washington for jobs and freedom was to begin, Courtland Cox, a top official from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, walked to the still-deserted National Mall with the chief organizer of the march, Bayard Rustin. In the quiet, as mist rose from the Reflecting Pool, Cox turned to Rustin and asked, “Do you think anybody’s coming?”
They came. They arrived by bus, train, and car. They bicycled from Ohio, hitchhiked from Alabama, and walked from Brooklyn. One young man roller-skated from Chicago. That day, some 250,000 people joined one another in the hope and belief that change was possible.
Wearing their Sunday best, carrying placards, linking arms and joining voices, they filled the National Mall from the Washington Monument to the long shadows of the Lincoln Memorial. In a peaceful gathering filled with music and hope, they gathered to listen to popular artists of the day sing songs of yearning and courage. Speakers from religious groups, labor unions, and major civil rights organizations talked of their belief that the time for change had come, was indeed, overdue.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., galvanized the watching nation with his dream of a day when “this nation would 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.’” He envisioned a time when “all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: ‘My country ‘tis of thee; sweet land of liberty….’”
The brainchild of labor leader A. Philip Randolph, a seventy-four-year-old veteran of battles against racial discrimination, the March on Washington was intended to be a call for strong civil rights legislation and policies such as a national living wage and a large-scale jobs program for the unemployed. More broadly, in King’s words, the march aimed “to arouse the conscience of the nation.”
It proved to be a milestone in the civil rights movement. Less than a year later, Congress passed and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.