This Day in History… August 28, 1963

March on Washington and Martin Luther King, Jr’s “I Have a Dream” Speech 

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As African Americans struggled against segregation and mistreatment, Civil Rights leaders organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.

Even after the Supreme Court outlawed segregation in 1954, racial equality didn’t exist in much of America. The civil rights movement of the 1960s, led by Martin Luther King Jr., changed that. Under his guidance, many people of all races united on behalf of equality.

When President John F. Kennedy proposed a civil rights bill in 1963, King and several others organized a march on the capital to urge Congress to pass the legislation. They also sought to end segregation in schools, put an end to police brutality, and gain equal access to jobs. The March on Washington attracted over 250,000 people. Demonstrators marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. The highlight of the march was King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, given at the Lincoln Memorial.

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As he looked out over the crowd, King realized the end of his speech wasn’t what he wanted to say, so he began preaching. In his stirring speech, King defined the civil rights movement’s moral basis. His plea for equality conveyed a sense of urgency to members of the crowd. On that day, King envisioned justice for all races.

The march was the largest demonstration to be held in Washington, D.C. at the time. It was also widely televised, gaining national attention. Congress passed Kennedy’s civil rights bill in 1964. The act called for an end to racial discrimination in education, employment, and in public places. King, whose struggle for equality changed America forever, was awarded the Nobel peace prize the following year.

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