March on Washington


On August 28, 1963, a quarter of a million Americans from across the United States converged on the nation's capitol in what was to become a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement. Plans for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom began in 1962 when A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, put forth the idea of a mass gathering on Washington, D.C. to draw attention to the economic plight of the county's African American population. Randolph called upon the nation?s leading civil rights organizations to lend their support to the march and persuaded President John F. Kennedy to endorse the demonstration. As plans progressed, Randolph charged noted civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin, with the arduous task of coordinating and directing the logistics for the march. Rustin and his crew of volunteers worked around the clock to make necessary arrangements as word of the upcoming march spread throughout the country, and thousands of anxious supporters prepared to make their descent on the nation's capitol. On August 28, 1963, a crowd of 250,000 people, including nearly 450 members of Congress, gathered at Lincoln Memorial to listen to the day's scheduled performances and speeches. Randolph along with Roy Wilkins, John Lewis and others delivered riveting speeches before Martin Luther King took his place at the podium and delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. Even though the March on Washington succeeded in both dramatizing and politicizing the need to secure federal legislation banning segregation and racial discrimination, it would be another year before King's dream was realized with the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act.

Expand all | Collapse all | Results view

Archival Collections and Reference Resources

Educator Resources