There are various events that led to the March on Washington in 1963. African Americans were denied the basic freedoms set forth by the constitution such as equality amongst all other people and equal opportunity among all Americans. They were also denied the “American Dream”; they weren’t able to pursue a life of personal happiness and find material comfort like other American citizens. African Americans were making their desire for equal rights more noticeable (Ross, 1).
The Ku Klux Klan was an organization that didn’t want civil rights to be enacted; they actually regrouped to prevent the passage of the Civil Rights Act. This cause allowed them to become more populous nationwide. Demonstrations before the March on Washington were small and not complicated. These demonstrations consisted of direct action campaigns and sit-ins in congressional offices. Malcolm X is an African American who was in favor of civil rights. He was a militant leader who became a Muslim minister in 1952 and believed a brotherhood could exist between blacks and whites. Also, he formed the organization of Afro-American Unity. Soon after this a community of black Muslims began to rise. This community consisted of mostly poor blacks and prison populations with numbers gradually increasing through preaches. These people showed condemnation to the March on Washington. The AFL-CIO was moderately involved with the March on Washington. This organization is one of the few known that remained neutral with civil rights and questioned weather the march would impact legislation. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations merged to create this organization (March, 1).
A. Philip Randolf was involved in civil rights before the March on Washington in 1963. He was the founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Cars protestors and the organizer of the March on Washington in 1941. In addition, he was able to gain the presidency of the BSCP.
There was a March on Washington in 1941 before the one in 1963. This one pressured President Roosevelt to create jobs for blacks during the war and caused President Truman to end racial discrimination in the military. Later, in 1941, the march is cancelled because the marches demands were met and also due to President Roosevelt’s executive order #8802 (King, 1). When Hoover became president, he attempted to prevent the march by creating many inflictions as he can to be successful. His numerous suspicions caused King to drop many relationships between close friends and agents. He revealed to the public that many people opposed Kings way of thinking and tried to destroy his reputation. He even tried to show communists influenced King. With all this done, in the end Hoover’s denunciations became suspicious and phony and showed how bad official paranoia was. In addition, he revealed the character assassination in America. Desperate to stop the march, Hoover resorted to wire-tapping; the follow through was lacking material to stop the march. In these taps, Hoover tried to exploit King’s sexual indiscretions to shock the public and to exploit Rustin’s homosexual liaisons (March, 1). When President Kennedy was sworn into office his administration didn’t approve of the March on Washington. They saw it as a potential moment to secure civil rights legislation and predicted that it might aggravate racial tension in America. The civil rights leaders were called into the White House to try to negotiate a cancellation of the march, but it fails. Not soon before the march, Kennedy made some of his provisions public and claimed he will enforce a civil rights bill and promised to pass it in 1963 (King, 1).
Martin Luther King, Jr. has been arrested countless times for organizing protests and participating in them. In one of them he was arrested during one of his protests in Birmingham. From here he wrote a speech in jail called the “Letter From Birmingham City Jail” and it invoked more demonstrating nationwide as with his imprisonment. By this time Congress still isn’t supporting a civil rights act set by Kennedy. It came time for the recession to strike and it hit African Americans hard. The recession of America occurred in 1959 leaving half a million blacks searching for jobs and raising black unemployment twice that of whites. Job handlings in 1963 illustrated the white man and the blacks man. Blacks had it worse off with jobs than whites with their employment up at eleven percent unemployment and an annual income of three thousand five hundred dollars. On the other hand whites were down to six percent unemployment and an annual income of six thousand five hundred (DeSiato, 1). June eleven 1963 was a day of foreshadowing the future. Kennedy presented a civil rights speech and made plans about the March on Washington public. Just before the march takes place there is even more inspiration to add upon it. A series of unjust events happen at Birmingham, hundreds of southern cities had thousands of infestations of thousands of bad actions by people. The desire to pass a civil rights bill over whelms the people (March, 1).
The March on Washington was a gathering for all who had a similar goal, equality. The American government helped fund a part of the march by using tax money from taxpayers, Washington D.C. businessmen funded the march for being in the same location, and many blacks offered private funding. Donations ranged from big to small and from individuals to corporations. A few aids were offered and the came from certain trade unions that were interested and “Kennedy Men” such as Paul Newman and Marlon Brando gave private aid. Also, fundraisers were done while the march took place such as the official memento of the march, that sold for a dollar and official march buttons that sold for twenty-five cents. One hundred seventy-five thousand of these buttons were sold before the march and there were one hundred fifty thousand more on order. The total expense of this march was about one hundred twenty thousand dollars (March, 1).
Bayard Rustin played an important role in the March on Washington. He was the chief coordinator of the march and he faced some doubts for being a pacifist, socialist, and a homosexual, but pulled through. The most important organizations such as CORE, BSCP, NAACP, SCLC, and NUL were present. The march was located in the sentinel in front of the Abraham Memorial symbolizing the first attempts for equal rights in Washington D.C. Many usual items were banned on this demonstration unlike the other ones. Police dogs are banned due to the Birmingham incident, liquor sales cease, and two Washington Senator’s baseball games are cancelled for the march (March, 1).
Modes of transportation varied for all who wanted to get to Washington, D.C.
Forty railroad trains were set to Washington D.C., two thousand five hundred buses headed to Washington D.C., and a few planes were destined to Washington D.C. With all the traffic there was bound to be transportation issues. Parking was limited for all the special and non-special buses, trains, cars, and planes; all the traffic caused traffic jams. The expected arrival times were from six to eleven in the morning so everyone was rushed. The visitors were in need of a place to stay and they needed to find a place for the night. Many black families had to open their homes to visitors and local churches were used as dormitories. The visitors were asked to bring money and boxed-lunches. . Due to large numbers and possible rioting, there were armed personnel. There were two thousand nine hundred Washington police and one thousand police from nearby suburbs, two thousand civilian “marshals” and one thousand five hundred black police from New York City acting as private citizens and there were several army units trained in riot control and stationed at nearby military posts (DeSiato, 1).
The turn out for the march was massive and powerful. About 250,000 people arrived making it the largest demonstration on the nation’s capital and fifteen percent were students and twenty-five percent of the crowd was white, as of the non-black crowd.
The majority of the black crowd was northern, middle class, and urban. The March on Washington was the first demonstration to have extensive media coverage. This march was recognized for its civility and tranquility and had live national and international media coverage; this showed that there was heavy police presence that was not necessary. “Beatniks” were bearded young men and longhaired women dressed in sneakers and dungarees who participated in this event. The march had unexpected events, especially when protestors began to march up Independence and Constitution Avenue to Lincoln Memorial. At this point, the leaders of the march led the way arm in arm followed by all to the Lincoln Memorial. This march was nonviolent to make goals clear, be efficient, and preserve peace. Musical performances were by Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mahalia, Josh White, and Charlton Heston (Ross, 1).
The March on Washington had many demands that were desired to be met. Meaningful civil rights legislation was to be passed through Congress; protestors wanted no racial segregation in public schools, wanted a stop in police brutality, a public-works program for job opportunities, a ban of racial discrimination with public hiring, a two dollar minimum wage, and self-government for Washington D.C. During the March there were a few public speakers and they were Martin Luther King, Walter Reuther, John Lewis, Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, Rosa Parks, and Floyd McKissick. King’s speech, “I Have a Dream,” was the most memorable of all the speeches presented that day. It’s the most influential speech till this day for many people and showed that judgment should be on character and not race (Ross, 1). His speech influenced not just a nation, but also the whole world and it requested for unity across racial and religious barriers (40th, 1).
The immediate impact of the March on Washington began after it just ended. The leaders of the march were called in for a meeting at the White House and Kennedy decided to back up the civil rights act, but not to forcefully because he didn’t want disaster for the Democrats. Also, nation wide outrage immediately spurs everywhere and once more fire hoses and dogs were used to stop continuing protestors with most of them being teens or younger. Police actions were recorded by the media and shown to the public causing anger. In addition, many murders in Birmingham occur right after another. Four black girls are killed in a church bombing, police kill a black teen on the streets for no apparent reason, and a group of whites are reported to have killed a black youth on a bicycle. Unfortunately the end of the march brought assassinations into play. John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas; James Earl Ray assassinates Martin Luther King, Sirhan assassinates Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and Malcolm X is assassinated by Elijah Muhammad (March, 1).
A year after the march, Congress passes the Civil Rights Act. The demonstration revealed a gap in the tenets of American democracy and everyday experience of African Americans. The march showed how people really were; coming together for a common cause, the gathering showed that tangible goals can be reached, and established visibility in America. Even though the Civil Rights Act was passed it wasn’t the end of a movement because much harsh segregations were not removed. The March on Washington was a day that was different than days before it. It was noticed that there would always be hate, violence, and prejudice in the process of granting freedom. For one day, white and black, rich and poor were at peace together and all the people who gathered on Washington knew they all “had a dream” (Time, 1).
The effects of the March on Washington are still existent today. It created today’s social change and the promotion of nonviolent methods, and banned racial discrimination of the public areas, basically everywhere. African Americans currently have equal rights as of those set forth by the constitution like all other Americans (40th, 1).