Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. ~ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “I Have a Dream” August 28, 1963
Today marks the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Recently, in processing one of our newest collections, MS-434 The Jewish Federation of Greater Dayton Records, one of our graduate students, Jeremy Katz, discovered an original program from the March on Washington in August 1963.
Long-time civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph had originally proposed a march in 1962. However, it took the leaders of the major civil rights organizations working together to create one of the largest peaceful demonstrations in U.S. history.
On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people came to Washington D.C. to attend the March. Following a rally at the Washington Monument, marked by appearances from several celebrities and musicians, the participants marched along the mile-long area of the National Mall towards the Lincoln Memorial. The three-hour program which followed included Marian Anderson singing the National Anthem; remarks from A. Philip Randolph, Mrs. Medgar Evers, Rabbi Uri Miller, and Roy Wilkins; and a selection from Mahalia Jackson. Following the march and program, the day’s scheduled activities ended in a meeting between the leaders of the march and President Kennedy at the White House.
As the organizers planned this gathering, they issued a statement which was also printed on the back of the program outlining the ideas and hopes for the march. “As such, the Washington March is a living petition –in the flesh– of the scores of thousands of citizens of both races who will be present from all parts of our country.” Calling for a peaceful, self-disciplined gathering, the organizers asked participants “to resist provocations to disorder and violence” so that “no one in our own ranks, however, enthusiastic, shall be the spark for disorder.” The back of the program also included a listing of the demands being sought as a result of the demonstration.
Without question, the highlight of the day was the event listed on the program as #16, Remarks, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You can listen to the audio of the speech via the King Institute website.
Do you think the result –a peaceful demonstration– would be the same today?