The 1963 March on Washington, Then and Now
Photo credit: Civil rights March on Wash[ington]. Warren K. Laffler, 1963 Aug. 28. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was held in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963 to advocate for the civil and economic rights of Black Americans. More than 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the program, which included Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have a Dream" speech.
A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin organized the March, building an alliance of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations that came together under the banner of "jobs and freedom." It was instrumental in passing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and preceded the Selma Voting Rights Movement, which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
A critical assessment of this event 60 years later reveals historical lessons relevant to contemporary movements for social and economic justice.
A. Philip Randolph's Pledge
Following Dr. King’s speech at The March on Washington, A. Philip Randolph, Director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, invited those in attendance to take a pledge:
"Standing before the Lincoln Memorial on the 28th of August, in the centennial year of emancipation, I affirm my complete personal commitment to the struggle for jobs and freedom for Americans. To fulfill that commitment, I pledge that I will not relax until victory is won. I pledge that I will join and support all actions undertaken in good faith in accord with the time-honored Democratic tradition of non-violent protest, of peaceful assembly, and petition, and of redress through the courts and the legislative process. I pledge to carry the message of the March to my friends and neighbors, back home and arouse them to an equal commitment and equal effort. I will march and I will write letters. I will demonstrate and I will vote. I will work to make sure that my voice and those of my brothers ring clear and determine from every corner of our land. I pledge my heart and my mind and my body unequivocally and without regard to personal sacrifice, to the achievement of social peace through social justice".