Here’s a look at what you need to know about the 1963 March on Washington, led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others. The 50th anniversary of this historic event is August 28, 2013.
The event was officially titled the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial.
The march was organized by the “Big Six” leaders of the civil rights movement: A. Philip Randolph, Whitney M. Young, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, and John Lewis. Bayard Rustin was chief organizer of the march.
200,000-250,000 Americans, mostly African Americans, but including thousands of whites, held the march in order to focus attention on blacks’ demands for immediate equality in jobs and civil rights.
The marchers were entertained by celebrities, including Ossie Davis, Joan Baez, Bobby Darin, Odetta, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, and Jackie Robinson. Other celebrities who were present included actors Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Harry Belafonte, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Diahann Carroll, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis, Jr., and writer James Baldwin.
Law enforcement included 5,000 police, National Guardsmen and Army reservists. No marchers were arrested and no incidents concerning marchers were reported.
Ten leaders of the civil rights march met with President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Labor Secretary W. Willard Wirtz, and Burke Marshall, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in the cabinet room of the White House during the demonstration.
The leaders were: A. Philip Randolph, director of the march; Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Roy Wilkins, executive secretary of the NAACP; Whitney M. Young Jr., executive director of the National Urban League; Walter P. Reuther, president of the AFL-CIO United Automobile Workers; Reverend Eugene Carson Blake, Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in U.S.A. and a representative of the National Council of Churches; Rabbi Joachim Prinz, chairman of the American Jewish Congress; John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Matthew Ahmann, executive director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice; and Floyd B. McKissick, national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).