In this WSB newsfilm clip from the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom held in Washington D.C. on May 17, 1957, congressman Adam Clayton Powell and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak about African American attempts to gain civil rights in the United States.
The clip begins by showing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. the audience fills the area between the monument and the reflecting pool and back towards the Washington Monument. A man in a wide-brimmed hat takes a picture with a camera. An unidentified man appears to speak although his comments are not recorded at first; later he indicates the influence Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, Democratic majority leader, can have on the 1958 election, and the crowd cheers and waves handkerchiefs in response. Leaders of the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom had asked the audience to focus on the event's religious nature by waving handkerchiefs instead of clapping during the speeches. An African American man with a white beard stands among those listening to the speakers. Next, New York congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. says that he cares more about civil rights than about other issues discussed in congress including tidelands oil, natural gas, and private versus public hour; the crowd cheers again. The listening crowd includes many people who are sitting and standing near the memorial, including nurses in caps who line the sidelines. Finally, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wearing his formal church robes, declares that if African Americans are given the right to vote they will be able to obtain many of the basic rights they seek. The clip ends with the crowds again cheering in response.
After its 1957 creation, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization of African American ministers promoting civil rights, announced plans for a prayer pilgrimage to Washington. Pilgrimage sponsors included the SCLC and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), as well as other civil rights movement leaders. The pilgrimage's goals included demonstrating black unity; providing an opportunity for northerners to demonstrate their support; protesting ongoing legal attacks by southern states on the NAACP, protesting violence in the South; and urging the passage of civil rights legislation. An estimated twenty-five thousand people from thirty states attended the pilgrimage, held on the third anniversary of the United States Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education decision outlawing segregation in public education.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of African American civil rights leaders including congressman Adam Clayton Powell and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, Washington, D.C., 1957 May 17, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 0772, 47:10/49:06, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.