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The March on Washington Previous Next
Digital History ID 3328


The violence that erupted in Birmingham and elsewhere alarmed many veteran civil rights leaders. In December 1962, two veteran fighters for civil rights, A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, met at the office of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in Harlem. Both men were pacifists, eager to rededicate the Civil Rights Movement to the principle of nonviolence. Both men decided that a massive march for civil rights and jobs might provide the necessary pressure to prompt Kennedy and Congress to act.

On August 28, 1963, over 200,000 people gathered around the Washington Monument and marched eight-tenths of a mile to the Lincoln Memorial. The marchers carried placards reading: "Effective Civil Rights Laws--Now! Integrated Schools--Now! Decent Housing--Now!" and sang the civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome." Ten speakers addressed the crowd, but the event's highlight was an address by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After he finished his prepared text, he launched into his legendary closing words. "I have a dream," he declared, "that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.... I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with people's injustices, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice." As his audience roared their approval, King continued: "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal."

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