March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom | August 28, 1963

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin. It was held on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. On this day, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous "I have a dream" speech to 250,000 people. The march led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream" was the civil rights speech that moved the world
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "I Have a Dream"
Credit: unknown

Asa Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin

The idea for the March on Washington came from A. Philip Randolph (1889-1979). Randolph was a union organizer and one of the most important civil rights activists in the 20th century.

In 1925, he organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union of African American car porters employed by the Pullman Company. After pushing for a decade, he successfully led them to almost two million dollars in increased wages and better working conditions. He also led the BSCP to become the first African American union to join the American Federation of Labor, which had previously excluded African Americans.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom had a precedent: in 1941, Randolph organized a March on Washington to protest the exclusion of African Americans from defense industry jobs--a way into the middle class. Faced with the prospect of a protest of 100,000,  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was forced to ban discrimination for defense industry jobs. Randolph cancelled the march and the March on Washington movement was born.

In 1962, Randolph wanted to do a similar march, bringing together civil rights groups. Bayard Rustin, another important person in the 20th century civil rights movement, to organize the march. The stated goals of the march were: 

1. a comprehensive civil rights bill that would end segregated public accommodations

2. protection of the right to vote

3. ways to seek redress for violations of constitutional rights

4. the desegregation of all public schools in 1963

5. a massive federal works program to train and place unemployed workers

6. a Federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination in all employment

Hero Essays on Speakers at the 1963 March on Washington

Bayard Rustin

By: Jasmine from Chapel Hill

Bayard Rustin was a brilliant civil rights leader and labor organizer whose contributions were not always acknowledged because of homophobia. He was the principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, and had organized the first Freedom Rides. He became a mentor to many activists, especially for gay rights.

Roy Wilkins

By: Jared from San Diego

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

By: John Lewis

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Congressman John Lewis talks about how Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired him as a young man during the Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King, Jr.

By: Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt
Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt.

John Lewis

By: Kathy Crockett <br>My Hero

John Lewis has worked for civil rights for all for over 40 years. He was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington.

Josephine Baker

By: Amélie from Lyon

Josephine Baker was a popular African American dancer in France, fought for civil rights and freedom against the Nazis. She spoke at the March on Washington before the official program began.

Rosa Parks

By: Francisca Stewart

Rosa Parks made history when she refused to sit in the back of the bus. She was not a speaker at the March on Washington, but she was introduced on stage.

Hero Essays on Performers at the 1963 March on Washington

Mahalia Jackson

By: Kaela from Arizona

Mahalia Jackson sang at the 1963 March on Washington.

Marian Anderson

By: Elizabeth
Marian Anderson was a world-renowned opera singer.
Bob Dylan
By: Jonah Cohen
Bob Dylan is a pioneer musician and singer songwriter who continues to influence music today.

Hero Essays on Celebrities Who Were at the 1963 March on Washington

Lena Horne

By: Kierra from Fresno

Jackie Robinson

By: Carter Ukens

Sidney Poitier

By: Lydia from San Diego
Hope in Limitless Hopelessness

Ruby Dee

By: Viviara from Miami

James Baldwin

By: Eric from Elmhurst
James Baldwin was a famed novelist and essayist.

Harry Belafonte

By: Desiree from The Woodlands
"You can cage the singer but not the song".

A hero essay on John F. Kennedy, who saw civil rights as a moral obligation. He proposed legislation what would become the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guaranteed equal access to public facilities, federal protection of the right to vote, and the end of segregation in education.

John F. Kennedy meets with leaders of the March on Washington Aug 26 1963
Credit: Cecil W. Stoughton [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Criticisms of the March

Malcolm X

By: Max from Sandy

At the time of the 1963 March on Washington, Malcolm X criticized it and its leaders for selling out and promising a peaceful march. Blacks had been suffering in the "nightmare" of America, their anger was being diverted, and white people were integrated into the march. Later, Malcolm X changed his views on what people of the same economic class have in common.

The march was also criticized for having no official women speakers. Josephine Baker spoke, but before the ceremony began. Bayard Rustin gave a tribute to the women in the movement. Medgar Edvers's wife was scheduled to speak, but missed her flight, and Daisy Bates spoke very briefly in her place.

Related | More Civil Rights Leaders

Medgar Wiley Evers

By: Sina from Washington State
Medgar Wiley Evers worked to end racism in America.

Thurgood Marshall was a lawyer, the founder of the NAACP Legal Defense Education Fund, and the first African-American justice. Of the 32 cases he argued before the Supreme Court, he won 29. An important force in the 20th century civil rights movement, he helped to shape the legal landscape of the United State.
Thurgood Marshall org banner
Credit: Okamoto, Yoichi R. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Constance Baker Motley

By: Stephanie from New Haven
Constance Baker Motley broke through the discrimination against blacks, and was the first African-American judge.

Rev. James Reeb

By: Brianna
Rev. James Reeb worked for equal rights for all.

Roger Nash Baldwin

By: <h4>AMERICAN NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY, <br>edited by John Garraty, <br>copyright 1...
Roger Nash Baldwin A pioneer in the struggle for civil justice.

Ruby Bridges

By: Susannah Abbey
Ruby Bridges bravely led the way to desegregation of schools as a child.

The Greensboro Four

By: Maranda from Spokane
The Greensboro Four protested segregation with a sit-in at Woolworth's lunch counter.

The Little Rock Nine

By: Natasha from New Haven
The Little Rock Nine bravely fought discrimination to attend an all white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Robert F. Kennedy

By: Richard Kent
Robert F. Kennedy was a voice for the powerless and advocate for human rights.

Morris Seligman Dees

By: Susannah Abbey
Morris Seligman Dees is the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Fannie Lou Hamer

By: Nina Mariotti
Fannie Lou Hamer was a civil rights leader and voting rights advocate.

Grace Lee Boggs

By: Jane Wallace from New York
Grace Lee Boggs has advocated for marginalized people for over 70 years

Mary McLeod Bethune

By: Audrey from Mount Joy
Mary McLeod Bethune used education to help in the fight for racial and gender equality.

Descendants team up to teach the positive lessons of the infamous 'Plessy v. Ferguson'

By: Gregory M. Lamb <br>The Christian Science Monitor
Permission to use this material was granted byThe Christian Science Monitor

Coretta Scott King

By: Shaylene from Lincoln

Maya Angelou

By: Leilani from Kahului

Marian Wright Edelman Speech

Malika Sanders

By: Wendy Jewell
Malika Sanders was born into the Civil Rights Movement and continues work today.

Langston Hughes

By: Jeff Trussell
Langston Hughes was nicknamed the Poet Laureate of Harlem.

Jesse Owens

By: Brett from Fredericksburg
Jesse Owens defied the odds in running.

Jacob Lawrence

By: Kristin Myer
Jacob Lawrence broke racial barriers as a renowned painter.

Paul Robeson

Paul Robeson was a singer, actor, football player scholar and civil rights activist.

Oseola McCarty

By: Molly
Oseola McCarty donated her life savings so others could go to college.

Dr. Felton Earls

By: The My Hero Project
Dr. Felton Earls treats communities through his work.

Effa Manley

By: Diane from New Haven
Effa Manley was an activist and pioneer in breaking down baseball's racial barriers.


Miriam Makeba


Leaders Pursuing Civil Rights

Ms. Rosa Parks by Gail Slockett

By: Gail G. Slockett
Portrait of Rosa Parks by Gail Slockett

Ruby Dee

By: India from Westerville

Gerald E. Talbot

In 1972, Talbot became the first African American member of the Maine House of Representatives when he was elected to represent part of Portland, Maine as a Democrat

I Have a Dream...

Martin Luther King, Jr.


Everett Parker Tribute

Producer: Jean Robinson
Everett Parker fought with the FCC for the sake of racial justice in television.

I Have a Dream Speech

Kitty Richardson

This short film provides an overview of the speech and reflects on it's importance to today's world.

Organizer created on 8/24/2013 1:14:54 PM by Becky Miller

Last edited 8/31/2020 6:55:39 PM by Rachel Priebe