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The March on Washington
In response to Governor Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door” to prevent the
integration of the University of Alabama, President Kennedy addressed the nation on the
issue of civil rights (11 June 1963).
“The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal
rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow
Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark,
cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children
to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who
will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of
us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin
changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the
counsels of patience and delay?
One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed
the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet
freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and
economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not
be fully free until all its citizens are free.”
--President Kennedy, in a nationally-televised speech responding
to Governor Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door.”
“…We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our
freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more
importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes;
that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or
caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?
…We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It
cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased
demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is
time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above
all, in all of our daily lives…Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as
violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.”
--Kennedy (11 June 1963)
The March on Washington
for Jobs and Freedom
(28 Aug 1963)
One of the most remembered and
celebrated moments of the civil rights
movement, the March on Washington
for Jobs and Freedom was conceived
by A. Philip Randolph and and
executed by his protégé Bayard Rustin.
The demonstration was offered as a
centennial commemoration of the
Emancipation Proclamation and was
scheduled to mark the eighth
anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder.
The March on Washington
Movement (1941-1947)
• The original March on Washington (MOW)
movement emerged in the 1940s under the leadership
of A. Philip Randolph, a labor organizer and head of
the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
• The initial demand was an end to discrimination in
defense industries and federal agencies through a
massive, militant grassroots Black movement, a
tactic that other civil rights leaders like those of the
interracial NAACP deemed unwise.
• The march, planned for July 1, 1941, was expected
to draw 100,000 people. It was called off a week
before when Roosevelt established the Fair
Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to
investigate discrimination in defense industries.
• The MOW movement continued until 1947 with
mass rallies and demonstrations, but more than 15
years would pass before a “March on Washington”
like that Randolph envisioned would actually occur.
• The armed forces remained segregated until 1948,
when President Truman issued an executive order to
desegregate them.
Bayard Rustin
(1912-1987)
• A socialist and pacifist, Bayard Rustin was a key organizer and
strategist for several campaigns during the civil rights era and
the chief architect and planner of the 1963 March on
Washington.
• He worked with Randolph on the 1941 MOW and was an
original freedom rider with the 1947 Fellowship of
Reconciliation.
• Rustin advised King during the Montgomery bus boycott and
taught him the ways of Gandhian nonviolence. In the early years
of his national leadership, King sought Rustin’s advice regularly.
• The FBI drove a wedge between King and Rustin by threatening
to suggest that the two were having a sexual affair. King
thereafter worked to distance himself from Rustin, bowing to the
rampant homophobia of that time.
• A few weeks prior to the March, SC Senator Strom Thurmond,
author of the “Southern Manifesto,” publically attacked Rustin
as a “Communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual.” Rustin’s
sexual orientation—and his refusal to deny or apologize for his
homosexuality—is the central reason his leadership was not
more visible and is not more widely acknowledged today.
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
• Randolph suggested a March on Washington to demand a higher
minimum wage and a federal jobs program.
• Once other civil rights groups signed on to the effort, the focus shifted
to demanding passage of the civil rights bill then pending in Congress.
As Chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis, at 23, was the
youngest speaker at the March on Washington. His original draft was harshly critical of the
Kennedy administration and its reluctance to address civil rights violations and racism across
the nation. However, in the speech he actually delivered, Lewis deferred to the requests of older
civil rights leaders like A. Philip Randolph, who had called for a March on Washington two
decades prior, and tempered his message to avoid alienating white moderates. Nonetheless, his
tone was still intensely radical.
“I appeal to all of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this
nation. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet
of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is
complete….For in the Delta in Mississippi, in southwest Georgia, in the
Black Belt of Alabama, in Harlem, in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and
all over this nation, the black masses are on the march for jobs and
freedom. They’re talking about slow down and stop. We will not stop. All
of [this opposition] will not stop this revolution. If we do not get
meaningful legislation out of this Congress, the time will come when we
will not confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the
South…But we will march with the spirit of love and with the spirit of
dignity that we have shown here today. By the force of our demands, our
determination, and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into
a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of God and
democracy. We must say: ‘Wake up America! Wake up!’ For we cannot
stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.”
–John Lewis
King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
“There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights,
when will you be satisfied?
We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the
unspeakable horrors of police brutality.
We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel,
cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities.
We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is
from a smaller ghetto to a larger one.
We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood
and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only.
We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and
a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote.
No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down
like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”
– King, “I Have a Dream” speech
Malcolm X on King and the March on Washington
Malcolm X was critical of the choice to utilize children in the Birmingham campaign,
asserting, “real men don’t put their children on the firing line.” In general, X dismissed
inter-racialism as a tactic and strategy as ineffectual and counter-revolutionary.
“It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong.
What you do? You integrate it with cream; you make it weak. If you pour too much cream
in, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to
be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it’ll put you to sleep. This is what
they did with the march on Washington. They [white people] joined it. They didn’t integrate
it; they infiltrated it. They joined it, became a part of it, took it over. And as they took it
over, it lost its militancy. They ceased to be angry. They ceased to be hot. They ceased to be
uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march. It became a picnic, a circus. Nothing
but a circus, with clowns and all....I know you don’t like what I’m saying, but I’m going to
tell you anyway. ‘Cause I can prove what I’m saying. If you think I’m telling you wrong,
you bring me Martin Luther King and A. Philip Randolph and James Farmer and those
other three, and see if they’ll deny it over a microphone. /
No, it was a sellout. It was a takeover.”
—“Message to the Grassroots” (1963)
Anne Moody on the March
“Thousands of people just took off, leaving most of their leaders on
the podium. It was kind of funny to watch the leaders run to overtake
the march. The way some of them had been leading the people in the
past, perhaps the leaders were better off leading themselves, I
thought…By the time we got to the Lincoln Memorial, there were
already thousands of people there. I sat on the grass and listened to the
speakers, to discover we had ‘dreamers’ instead of leaders leading us.
Just about every one of them stood up there dreaming. Martin Luther
King went on and on talking about his dream. I sat there thinking that
in Canton [Mississippi] we never had time to sleep, much less
dream…
[Reflecting two days later:] The white people of the South must really
have some strong feelings about the march now, I thought. I knew
when we returned to Mississippi, we would be faced with twice as
many threats and acts of violence. And maybe we’d never even get
back to Mississippi.”
Eighteen days after the March on Washington, the
16th Street Baptist Church, central to the success of
the Birmingham campaign earlier that year, was
bombed by the Ku Klux Klan during the monthly
children’s mass. Four girls, ages 11 and 14, were
killed and a fifth, the younger sister of one of the dead,
was partially blinded. The FBI and local law
enforcement quickly determined the names of four
suspects, but the first of the four was not brought to
trial until 1977. Nearly forty years passed before two
others were convicted. In addition to the four girls
killed in the bombing, two Black boys, 13 year-old
Virgil Ware and 16 year-old Johnnie Robinson, were
also killed that day in Birmingham. Robinson was shot
in the back by police for allegedly throwing rocks at
cars driven by white teenagers.
Bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church
(15 Sep 1963)
Surviving Victims
Maxine McNair (left), the last surviving parent to lose a child in the church bombing, died in January 2022, outliving her
daughter Denise by nearly sixty years. Sarah Collins, whose older sister Addie Mae was killed, suffered permanent vision
damage as a result of the explosion and continues to lobby for restitution from the state of Alabama as a victim of terrorism. She
has received no compensation for the injuries and trauma she endured.
The day after the bombing, a young white lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr. sternly
assigned responsibility for the attack:
“All across Alabama, an angry, guilty people cry out their mocking shouts of indignity and say
they wonder, ‘Why?’ ‘Who?’ Everyone then ‘deplores’ the ‘dastardly’ act. But you know the
‘who’ of ‘who did it’ is really rather simple. The ‘who’ is every little individual who talks about
the [n-word] and spreads the seeds of his hate to his neighbor and his son. The jokester, the crude
oaf whose racial jokes rock the party with laughter. The ‘who’ is every governor who ever
shouted for lawlessness and became a law violator. It is every senator and every representative
who in the halls of Congress stands and with mock humility tells the world that things back
home aren’t really like they are. It is courts that move ever so slowly, and newspapers that
timorously defend the law.”
In the aftermath of the 2015 mass shooting of nine Black worshippers at Emanuel
AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white nationalist who had just
attended their prayer meeting, The Atlantic reflected on the historical significance of
the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing more than fifty years before. “It was the
size of the explosion and the massacre of young children that seemed to make it
different” from the numerous other racist bombings of that era. “Even Governor
George Wallace, one of the nation’s most outspoken and virulent segregationists,
offered a $5,000 reward for the arrest of the bombers.”
By Don Hesse (17 Sep 1963)
“March sponsored by
CORE in memory of the
four little girls, 16th Street,
NW, Washington, D.C.,
September 22, 1963.”
(22 Nov 1963)
Vice-president Lyndon Johnson of Texas was
sworn in aboard Air Force One following
Kennedy’s assassination.

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2.20.24 The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.pptx

  • 1. The March on Washington
  • 2. In response to Governor Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door” to prevent the integration of the University of Alabama, President Kennedy addressed the nation on the issue of civil rights (11 June 1963).
  • 3. “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay? One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.” --President Kennedy, in a nationally-televised speech responding to Governor Wallace’s “stand in the schoolhouse door.”
  • 4. “…We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes? …We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives…Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.” --Kennedy (11 June 1963)
  • 5. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (28 Aug 1963) One of the most remembered and celebrated moments of the civil rights movement, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was conceived by A. Philip Randolph and and executed by his protégé Bayard Rustin. The demonstration was offered as a centennial commemoration of the Emancipation Proclamation and was scheduled to mark the eighth anniversary of Emmett Till’s murder.
  • 6. The March on Washington Movement (1941-1947) • The original March on Washington (MOW) movement emerged in the 1940s under the leadership of A. Philip Randolph, a labor organizer and head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. • The initial demand was an end to discrimination in defense industries and federal agencies through a massive, militant grassroots Black movement, a tactic that other civil rights leaders like those of the interracial NAACP deemed unwise. • The march, planned for July 1, 1941, was expected to draw 100,000 people. It was called off a week before when Roosevelt established the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to investigate discrimination in defense industries. • The MOW movement continued until 1947 with mass rallies and demonstrations, but more than 15 years would pass before a “March on Washington” like that Randolph envisioned would actually occur. • The armed forces remained segregated until 1948, when President Truman issued an executive order to desegregate them.
  • 7. Bayard Rustin (1912-1987) • A socialist and pacifist, Bayard Rustin was a key organizer and strategist for several campaigns during the civil rights era and the chief architect and planner of the 1963 March on Washington. • He worked with Randolph on the 1941 MOW and was an original freedom rider with the 1947 Fellowship of Reconciliation. • Rustin advised King during the Montgomery bus boycott and taught him the ways of Gandhian nonviolence. In the early years of his national leadership, King sought Rustin’s advice regularly. • The FBI drove a wedge between King and Rustin by threatening to suggest that the two were having a sexual affair. King thereafter worked to distance himself from Rustin, bowing to the rampant homophobia of that time. • A few weeks prior to the March, SC Senator Strom Thurmond, author of the “Southern Manifesto,” publically attacked Rustin as a “Communist, draft-dodger, and homosexual.” Rustin’s sexual orientation—and his refusal to deny or apologize for his homosexuality—is the central reason his leadership was not more visible and is not more widely acknowledged today.
  • 8. March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom • Randolph suggested a March on Washington to demand a higher minimum wage and a federal jobs program. • Once other civil rights groups signed on to the effort, the focus shifted to demanding passage of the civil rights bill then pending in Congress.
  • 9.
  • 10. As Chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, John Lewis, at 23, was the youngest speaker at the March on Washington. His original draft was harshly critical of the Kennedy administration and its reluctance to address civil rights violations and racism across the nation. However, in the speech he actually delivered, Lewis deferred to the requests of older civil rights leaders like A. Philip Randolph, who had called for a March on Washington two decades prior, and tempered his message to avoid alienating white moderates. Nonetheless, his tone was still intensely radical.
  • 11. “I appeal to all of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this nation. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until the revolution of 1776 is complete….For in the Delta in Mississippi, in southwest Georgia, in the Black Belt of Alabama, in Harlem, in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, and all over this nation, the black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom. They’re talking about slow down and stop. We will not stop. All of [this opposition] will not stop this revolution. If we do not get meaningful legislation out of this Congress, the time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the South…But we will march with the spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity that we have shown here today. By the force of our demands, our determination, and our numbers, we shall splinter the segregated South into a thousand pieces and put them together in the image of God and democracy. We must say: ‘Wake up America! Wake up!’ For we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.” –John Lewis
  • 12. King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech
  • 13. “There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, when will you be satisfied? We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: for whites only. We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” – King, “I Have a Dream” speech
  • 14. Malcolm X on King and the March on Washington Malcolm X was critical of the choice to utilize children in the Birmingham campaign, asserting, “real men don’t put their children on the firing line.” In general, X dismissed inter-racialism as a tactic and strategy as ineffectual and counter-revolutionary. “It’s just like when you’ve got some coffee that’s too black, which means it’s too strong. What you do? You integrate it with cream; you make it weak. If you pour too much cream in, you won’t even know you ever had coffee. It used to be hot, it becomes cool. It used to be strong, it becomes weak. It used to wake you up, now it’ll put you to sleep. This is what they did with the march on Washington. They [white people] joined it. They didn’t integrate it; they infiltrated it. They joined it, became a part of it, took it over. And as they took it over, it lost its militancy. They ceased to be angry. They ceased to be hot. They ceased to be uncompromising. Why, it even ceased to be a march. It became a picnic, a circus. Nothing but a circus, with clowns and all....I know you don’t like what I’m saying, but I’m going to tell you anyway. ‘Cause I can prove what I’m saying. If you think I’m telling you wrong, you bring me Martin Luther King and A. Philip Randolph and James Farmer and those other three, and see if they’ll deny it over a microphone. / No, it was a sellout. It was a takeover.” —“Message to the Grassroots” (1963)
  • 15. Anne Moody on the March “Thousands of people just took off, leaving most of their leaders on the podium. It was kind of funny to watch the leaders run to overtake the march. The way some of them had been leading the people in the past, perhaps the leaders were better off leading themselves, I thought…By the time we got to the Lincoln Memorial, there were already thousands of people there. I sat on the grass and listened to the speakers, to discover we had ‘dreamers’ instead of leaders leading us. Just about every one of them stood up there dreaming. Martin Luther King went on and on talking about his dream. I sat there thinking that in Canton [Mississippi] we never had time to sleep, much less dream… [Reflecting two days later:] The white people of the South must really have some strong feelings about the march now, I thought. I knew when we returned to Mississippi, we would be faced with twice as many threats and acts of violence. And maybe we’d never even get back to Mississippi.”
  • 16. Eighteen days after the March on Washington, the 16th Street Baptist Church, central to the success of the Birmingham campaign earlier that year, was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan during the monthly children’s mass. Four girls, ages 11 and 14, were killed and a fifth, the younger sister of one of the dead, was partially blinded. The FBI and local law enforcement quickly determined the names of four suspects, but the first of the four was not brought to trial until 1977. Nearly forty years passed before two others were convicted. In addition to the four girls killed in the bombing, two Black boys, 13 year-old Virgil Ware and 16 year-old Johnnie Robinson, were also killed that day in Birmingham. Robinson was shot in the back by police for allegedly throwing rocks at cars driven by white teenagers. Bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church (15 Sep 1963)
  • 17. Surviving Victims Maxine McNair (left), the last surviving parent to lose a child in the church bombing, died in January 2022, outliving her daughter Denise by nearly sixty years. Sarah Collins, whose older sister Addie Mae was killed, suffered permanent vision damage as a result of the explosion and continues to lobby for restitution from the state of Alabama as a victim of terrorism. She has received no compensation for the injuries and trauma she endured.
  • 18. The day after the bombing, a young white lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr. sternly assigned responsibility for the attack: “All across Alabama, an angry, guilty people cry out their mocking shouts of indignity and say they wonder, ‘Why?’ ‘Who?’ Everyone then ‘deplores’ the ‘dastardly’ act. But you know the ‘who’ of ‘who did it’ is really rather simple. The ‘who’ is every little individual who talks about the [n-word] and spreads the seeds of his hate to his neighbor and his son. The jokester, the crude oaf whose racial jokes rock the party with laughter. The ‘who’ is every governor who ever shouted for lawlessness and became a law violator. It is every senator and every representative who in the halls of Congress stands and with mock humility tells the world that things back home aren’t really like they are. It is courts that move ever so slowly, and newspapers that timorously defend the law.” In the aftermath of the 2015 mass shooting of nine Black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, by a white nationalist who had just attended their prayer meeting, The Atlantic reflected on the historical significance of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing more than fifty years before. “It was the size of the explosion and the massacre of young children that seemed to make it different” from the numerous other racist bombings of that era. “Even Governor George Wallace, one of the nation’s most outspoken and virulent segregationists, offered a $5,000 reward for the arrest of the bombers.”
  • 19. By Don Hesse (17 Sep 1963)
  • 20. “March sponsored by CORE in memory of the four little girls, 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C., September 22, 1963.”
  • 21. (22 Nov 1963) Vice-president Lyndon Johnson of Texas was sworn in aboard Air Force One following Kennedy’s assassination.

Editor's Notes

  1. The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who will represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?  One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.  We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?    We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives…Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality. 
  2. Birmingham church bombing, 15 Sept 1963
  3. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/historical-background-charleston-shooting/396242/
  4. March sponsored by CORE in memory of the four little girls, 16th Street, NW, Washington, D.C., September 22, 1963