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March on Washington

The 1963 March on Washington attracted an estimated 250,000 people for a peaceful demonstration to promote Civil Rights and economic equality for African Americans. Participants walked down Constitution and Independence avenues and gathered before the Lincoln Monument for speeches, songs, and prayer. Televised live to an audience of millions, the march provided dramatic moments, most memorably the Rev Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Far larger than previous demonstrations for any cause, the march had an obvious impact, both on the passage of civil rights legislation and on nationwide public opinion. It proved the power of mass appeal and inspired imitators in the antiwar, feminist, an environmental movements. But the March on Washington in1963 was more complex than the iconic images most Americans remember it for. As the high point of the Civil Rights Movement, the march - and the integrationist, nonviolent, liberal form of protest it stood for - was followed by more radical, militant, and race-conscious approaches.

On August 28 the marchers arrived. By 11 o'clock in the morning, more than 200,000 had gathered by the Washington Monument, where the march was to begin. It was a diverse crowd: black and white, rich and poor, young and old, Hollywood stars and everyday people. Despite the fears that had prompted extraordinary precautions (including pre-signed executive orders authorizing military intervention in the case of rioting), those assembled marched peacefully.

The March on Washington was a success. It had been powerful, yet peaceful and orderly beyond anyone's expectations. It was, according to most historians, the high tide of that phase of the Civil Rights Movement.

Information courtesy of the Congress of Racial Equality, CORE Online, www.core-online.org.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "March on Washington." (Viewed on October 30, 2014) <http://jwa.org/discover/infocus/civilrights/march>.

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