The Civil Rights Movement was crucial to the development of the United States. It became one of the first steps to racial equality and helped to achieve more rights for the people of color living and working in the United States. The movement embraced non-violent methods, and this strategy proved to be effective when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was accepted1. The March on Washington became the culmination of the movement’s activities and gave a strong push to the approval of the bill2.
The event occurred on the 28th August 1963, when “more than 200,000 Americans gathered in Washington, D.C., for a political rally known as the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”3. The primary goal of the event was to enlighten the general population on the struggles that African Americans experienced in all aspects of their daily lives4. This was the second attempt at the March on Washington; the first attempt was made in 1941 by A. Philip Randolph, who wanted to gather 50,000 people at the event to draw the attention of President Roosevelt to the issue of discrimination5. At that time, the efforts were placated by the Executive Order 8802, issued in June 1941, which prohibited discrimination in defense jobs and initiated the Fair Employment Practices Committee (FEPC) to investigate racial discrimination in workplaces6. However, the Order was not sufficient in addressing other issues, such as poverty, social exclusion, and extreme violence7. The problem of racial discrimination was not only prevalent in workplaces, but across all types of communities8, which is why a comprehensive approach was required. The 1963 March on Washington was primarily aimed at persuading the government to pass the Civil Rights Act9.
The program of the March was for the crowd to move from the National Mall to the Lincoln Memorial, where a three-hour program would be held10. The program featured the national anthem, the Tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom, the Pledge, and benediction, as well as several remarks from leaders and activists11. One of the most significant items on the program was Martin Luther King’s famous speech “I Have a Dream”12. To this day, the speech is viewed as a crucial example of influential rhetoric that had a strong impact on the audience. In his speech, Martin Luther King addresses the progress that was made after the ban on slavery was imposed by President Lincoln but argues that the lives of the people of color are still rough and hugely affected by discrimination13. The speech appeals to the unity of the audience, both white and black, and concludes with King’s hopeful outlook for the future: “With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one-day”14.
The March on Washington was a great success: it “represented an affirmation of hope, of belief in the democratic process, and of faith in the capacity of blacks and whites to work together for racial equality”15. After the events of November 22, 1963, when John F. Kennedy, who strongly supported the movement, was assassinated, his successor Lyndon B. Johnson was able to enact the civil rights legislation which turned into the Civil Rights Act of 196416. The work of the Civil Rights Movement did not stop, and neither did the struggles faced by African Americans. Nevertheless, the event was critical to the decrease of racial inequality in the United States, largely shaping the world that we live in now.
“March on Washington.” History.com. Web.
King, Martin Luther. “I Have a Dream.” National Archives. Web.
“Official Program for the March on Washington (1963).” OurDocuments.com National Archives. Web.
Vox, Lisa. “Civil Rights Movement Timeline From 1960 to 1964.” ThoughtCo. Web.