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MARCH ON WASHINGTON

 Bayard Rustin and Cleveland Robinson

Instructions

There can be no doubt, even in the true depths of the most prejudiced minds, that the August 28 March on Washington was the most significant and moving demonstration for freedom and justice in all the history of this country.-Martin Luther King, Jr.

In: Clayborne Carson (ed), The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. 2001, p. 218. 

On August 28, 1963, more than 200,000 people gathered in the nation's capital to take part in the largest civil rights demonstration ever held. Demonstrators came from all over the country to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march, initiated by A. Philip Randolph and organized by Bayard Rustin, brought together many civil rights, labor, and religious leaders and activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr. As the final speaker, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. In this speech, King convincingly connected the African American freedom struggle to the fundamental tenets of the Declaration of Independence, namely the ideals of equality of and justice for all.
 
The march was successful in pressuring John F. Kennedy administration to initiate a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress. Though passed after Kennedy's death, the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 reflected the demands of the march.
However, the march's optimism quickly dissipated when less than a month later, on September 15, 1963, Ku Klux Klansmen bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing four schoolgirls, and injuring many others. Outrage and grief over the death of the four girls fueled anger toward racial injustice, and civil rights activists became even more determined to demand change. President Kennedy met with a delegation of black leaders, including King, to discuss the tense racial situation. With the assassination of President Kennedy, in November 1963, the future of the nation and race relations became even more uncertain. After becoming president, Lyndon B. Johnson assured King of his commitment to passing Kennedy's civil rights proposal.
 
TIMELINE
1961 Despite mob violence, black students continue the freedom ride campaign. 
  Hundreds are arrested in the Albany Movement's desegregation in Georgia.
1962 The Albany Movement protests resume during summer
  James Meredith desegregates the University of Mississippi
1963 King writes "Letter from Birmingham Jail" during the decisive civil rights campaign in Birmingham. 
  President John F. Kennedy proposes civil rights legislation to desegregate public accommodations, before his assassination in November. 
  NAACP leader Medgar Evers is murdered outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi by a white supremacist, Byron De La Beckwith, Jr. 
  March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King delivers "I Have A Dream" speech. 
  Explosion set up by white segregationists kills four black girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. 
1964 Freedom Summer Project seeks to register black voters in Mississippi Democratic Party. 
  Three civil rights workers murdered at the start of the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. 
 

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs The Civil Rights Act of 1964

  The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party fails to displace the all-white regular delegation at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. 
  Martin Luther King, Jr., receives the Nobel Prize.

Adapted from: Clayborne Carson, Emma J. Lapsansky-Werner, Gary B. Nash. The Struggle for Freedom. The Modern Era, Since 1930. Pearson, 2019.