The March on Washington - August 28, 1963
One hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation was written, African Americans were still fighting for equal rights in every day life. The first real success of this movement did not come until the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in 1954 which was followed by many boycotts and protests. The largest of these protests, the March on Washington, was held on August 28, 1963 “for jobs and freedom” (March on Washington 11). An incredible amount of preparation went into the event to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of people attending from around the nation and to deal with any potential incidents.
According to the march organizers, the march would symbolize their demands of “the passage of the Kennedy Administration Civil Rights Legislation without compromise of filibuster,” integration of all public schools by the end of the year, a federal program to help the unemployed, and a Federal Fair Employment Act which would ban job discrimination (“The March on Washington” 11). In order for the march not to appear as a war of white versus black it had to be racially integrated so it looked like justice versus injustice. Some organizers wanted to call for massive acts of disobedience across America, but when the Urban League and the N.A.A.C.P. joined the organization of the march, they insisted against it. The march was originally going to be on Capitol Hill to influence congress, but because of a 1882 law against demonstrating there, they decided to march to the Lincoln Memorial and invite congress to meet them there, knowing that they would not.
When planning the march, the organizers made sure that Washington D.C. was ready for anything so that the march could go on no matter the circumstances. Marchers were advised to bring raincoats, hats, sunglasses, plenty of water, and non-perishable food. To accommodate the expected 100,000 to 200,000 people, there were 292 outdoor toilets, 21 water fountains, 22 first aid stations, 40 doctors and 80 nurses along the march (“On the March” 17). The National Council of Churches made 80,000 boxed lunches for the marchers at 50 cents each. When the buses of people came to Washington D.C.’s outskirts, 5,600 cops and 4,000 army troops came to patrol the parade.
People from around the country came by any means necessary to support the march. One man from Chicago began roller-skating to Washington D.C. 11 days before the march (“On the March” 17). One of the march organizers described it as “if they can’t come any other way, they’ll look down and say, ‘feet, start movin’” (“On the March” 17). Mayors nearby Washington D.C. even gave city workers the day off so they could attend. For those too far away, there were symbolic marches on city halls across America and American Embassies around the world. James Baldwin who was in France at the time, took part in one of these.
The marchers gathered at the Washington Monument before dawn as planned on August 28, 1963....