In late August of 1963, on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, about a quarter million demonstrators converged on the National Mall in the nation’s capital to partake in what would become one of the largest human rights demonstrations in U.S. history.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as it became known, drew a majority African-American presence. Demonstrators arrived by the busload — many from Southern states where Jim Crow segregation policies were still alive and well — to demand greater legal and economic rights. They marched peacefully towards the Lincoln Memorial, and listened to the impassioned speeches of some of most outspoken civil rights leaders of the day, including Martin Luther King, Jr., who delivered his seminal “I Have a Dream” address. The speakers articulated a clear, carefully crafted set of demands, underscoring, as King stated, “the fierce urgency of now.” Continue reading