Living the Legacy

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The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Unit 2 , Lesson 7

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

http://jwa.org/LivingtheLegacy

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Document studies: 

What were the goals and messages of the March on Washington?

Directions

  1. Examine each document in your packet one at a time, reading any texts out loud. Discuss the Description Discussion Questions with each document.
  2. After examining all of the documents in your packet, read and discuss the Analysis questions (below).
  3. Using the Analysis questions as a guide, choose 1 or 2 documents (or excerpts from documents) that you think best demonstrate what your group learned.
  4. Write captions for your documents.
  5. Your teacher will give you further instructions as to how your group will share your findings.

March on Washington Button

March on Washington Button
Full image
Button belonging to Charly Mann, who went to the March on Washington the summer before 8th grade. http://www.chapelhillmemories.com/cat/14/83. Permission to use granted by Charly Mann.

March on Washington Button: Discussion Questions - Description

  1. What do you see on this button? (Give everyone in the group a chance to add something that they see.)
  2. Just looking at the button, what do you think the phrase "Jobs and Freedom" means? What do you see that makes you say that?
  3. Based on what you see in this button, what do you think were some of the implicit and explicit goals of the 1963 March on Washington? What makes you say that?
  4. Based on what you've already learned about the Civil Rights Movement, what types of freedoms do you think the marchers hoped to bring about?

Photograph of the March on Washington featuring "We march for..." signs and Civil Rights Movement leaders

We march for...
Full image
United States Information Agency, photograph of the March on Washington (civil rights and union leaders), August 28, 1963. National archive number 80-G-16871. Retrieved from: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:March_on_washington_Aug_28_1963.jpg

Marchers Photograph: Discussion Questions - Description

  1. What is going on here? What do you see that makes you say that?
  2. What do the slogans on the placards suggest to you? How are they the same or different from what you remember of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech?
  3. Why do you think the photographer framed the picture the way he/she did? How would the effect have been different if the man with his back to the camera had been left out? How would the effect have been different if the photographer had zoomed in on only a few people in the front row?
  4. Based on what you see in this photograph, what specific demands did the civil rights activists at the March on Washington have?
  5. If you made some predictions about the goals of the marchers, based on the March on Washington button on the previous page, how accurately did your predictions match the demands on signs in this photograph?

Context for John Lewis speech

John Lewis was the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at the time of the March on Washington. The youngest of the "Big Six," (as the heads of a group of major civil rights organizations were known), Lewis wanted to use the platform of the March provocatively, to push the public to take stronger action. After a draft of his original speech was circulated, President Kennedy's administration and some of the March's leadership demanded that Lewis change his speech. Lewis and other student leaders protested this censorship, but ultimately, a personal intervention from respected civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph persuaded Lewis to tone down his speech.

Note: Audio of John Lewis' speech from a live radio broadcast can be downloaded from NPR. After his speech, one of the radio commentators notes that changes were made in the speech from the prepared text given to the press earlier that day.

Excerpt of John Lewis' Speech delivered at the March on Washington

We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here, for they are receiving starvation wages or no wages at all. While we stand here, there are sharecroppers in the Delta of Mississippi who are out in the fields working for less than three dollars a day, 12 hours a day. While we stand here, there are students in jail on trumped-up charges…

We come here today with a great sense of misgiving. It is true that we support the administration's Civil Rights Bill. We support it with great reservation, however. Unless title three is put in this bill, there's nothing to protect the young children and old women who must face police dogs and fire hoses in the South while they engage in peaceful demonstration...

My friends let us not forget that we are involved in a serious social revolution. By and large, American politics is dominated by politicians who build their career on immoral compromise and allow themselves an open forum of political, economic and social exploitation dominate American politics.

There are exceptions, of course. We salute those. But what political leader can stand up and say, ‘My party is a party of principles’? For the party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march on Washington? Where is the political party that will make it unnecessary to march in the streets of Birmingham? Where is the political party that will protect the citizens of Albany, Georgia?...

To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait,’ we must say that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually but we want to be free now...

…I appeal to all of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this nation. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes, until a revolution is complete. We must get in this revolution and complete the revolution. In the Delta of Mississippi, in Southwest Georgia, in the Black Belt of Alabama, in Harlem, in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and all over this nation the black masses are on a march for jobs and freedom.

They're talking about slow down and stop. We will not stop…If we do not get meaningful legislation out of this Congress, the time will come when we will not confine our march into Washington. We will march through the South, through the streets of Jackson, through the streets of Danville, through the streets of Cambridge, through the streets of Birmingham. But we will march with the spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity that we have shown here today.

By the forces of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall send a desegregated South into a thousand pieces, put them together in the image of God and Democracy. We must say wake up America, wake up! For we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.

Details

John Lewis, Speech delivered at the March on Washington, 28 August 1963. Audio recording of the speech is available online.


…In good conscience, we cannot support the administration's civil rights bill; for it is too little, and too late…

Moreover, we have learned—and you—should know—since we are here for Jobs and Freedom—that within the past ten days a spokesman for the Administration appeared in a secret session before the committee that's writing the civil-rights bill and opposed and has almost killed a provision that would have guaranteed in voting suits, for the first time, a fair federal district judge. And, I might add, this Administration's bill or any other civil rights bill—as the 1960 civil-rights act—will be totally worthless when administered by racist judges, many of whom have been consistently appointed by President Kennedy.

I want to know, which side is the Federal Government on?

The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery...To those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait’, we must say that, ‘Patience is a dirty and nasty word’. We cannot be patient, we do not want to be free gradually, we want our freedom, and we want it now. We cannot depend on any political party, for both the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence…

The revolution is a serious one, Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the street and put it in the courts. Listen Mr. Kennedy, Listen Mr. Congressmen, Listen fellow citizens, the black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won't be a ‘cooling-off’ period…

…We will march through the South, through the Heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own ‘scorched earth’ policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground—non-violently…We will make the action of the past few months look petty…

Details

John Lewis, Cut portions of original speech prepared for the March on Washington, 28 August 1963.


John Lewis speech: Discussion Questions

  1. Primary Document Review: Who wrote this speech? When was it delivered?
  2. Who was the intended audience(s) for this speech? How do you think this might have influenced its content and/or tone?
  3. John Lewis's speech was considered controversial, even without the lines that were cut. Consider the message(s) he conveys in the speech. Have one member of your group describe in his/her own words the overall message John Lewis conveyed in the speech he delivered at the March on Washington. Have another member of your group describe the message conveyed by the portion of his speech that was cut. Have a third member of your group describe how the messages differed. (If your group doesn't find a significant difference between them, discuss why you think individuals at the time did perceive a difference and saw Lewis' speech as controversial.)
  4. How does John Lewis use analogy, language, and tone to make his point? What are some specific examples of this?
  5. What, if anything, strikes you in particular in John Lewis' speech? How does the tone and/or message differ from MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech?
  6. John Lewis was pressured by various leaders, including some of those organizing the March, to make changes to his speech or risk being cut from the program. (They were particularly concerned about the analogy he made to General Sherman's march through the South in the Civil War, in which Sherman and his troops burned down Atlanta.) With this in mind, do you think he should have cut the lines that he cut? Why or why not?

    Analysis

    After you examine all of the sources in this Document Study answer the following questions:

    1. Civil Rights activists used many different tactics to effect change. What are the various ways you think a march can impact a movement? What do you think was effective and/or not effective about the March on Washington, from what you've learned thus far?
    2. Using all the evidence provided by the documents you examined and your discussion so far, make a list of the goals/purposes of the March on Washington reflected in these documents. (There were other central goals, such as advocating for the passage of the Civil Rights Act, that are not reflected in your packet.)
    3. How might some of these goals be competing? How do you think the organizers of the March might have dealt with the fact that there were several agendas for the event?

    What role did religion play in speeches at the March on Washington?

    "I Have a Dream..." Talmud Page

    "I Have a Dream..." Talmud Page
    Full image
    The “I Have a Dream” Talmud page and the accompanying study guide were prepared by Hillel’s Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Learning Director Rabbi Avi Weinstein for the 2001 Charlotte and Jack J. Spitzer B'nai B'rith Hillel Forum on Public Policy. Used with permission of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, hillel.org.

    This version of the Talmud Page is optimized for printing on 11" x 17" paper. Original at www.hillel.org/jewish/textstudies/special/mlk.htm

    Discussion Questions - Description

    1. Review: Who wrote and delivered the "I Have a Dream" speech? When?
    2. Who was the intended audience for this speech? How do you think this might have influenced the content and tone of this speech?
    3. Read the text on the center of the page (the original speech) out loud in your group. Based only on this text, and not on other things you've heard about this speech, describe in your own words, what is Martin Luther King's dream?
    4. It's not surprising that King, a minister, used biblical references in his speech. Many of his listeners may have been aware of these references, but others may not have been aware of the literary complexities of this speech. Which, if any, of these references are familiar to you? What associations do you have with them?
    5. On the "I Have a Dream" Talmud page, some of the references have been highlighted and explained. Choose 3 of the highlighted phrases and read the commentary in the margin.
    6. How, if at all, do you interpret or think about this speech differently looking at it today in a Jewish context?

    Optional

    To further explore the "I Have a Dream…" Talmud Page, use the study guide found at www.hillel.org/NR/rdonlyres/743F812F-0F35-4C72-9268-0A6A4EADF305/0/MLK_Navigator.pdf.

    Rabbi Joachim Prinz speech at the March on Washington

    Discussion Questions - Description

    1. African Americans can be seen as having a "hyphenated identity" (black and American—an identity that combines race and nationality). Consider what hyphenated group Rabbi Prinz is speaking as a member of. How does he make it clear that this group is hyphenated?
    2. According to Rabbi Prinz, why do Jews identify with African Americans?
    3. How does Rabbi Prinz connect the Civil Rights Movement to the Holocaust?
    4. What does Rabbi Prinz believe is the "most urgent problem" facing America?
    5. What does he see as the solution to this problem?

    Analysis

    After you examine all of the documents in your packet answer the following questions:

    1. How was the Bible, a text held to be sacred by Jews and Christians alike, used in the speeches given at the March on Washington? How might this have unified and created bonds between diverse marchers? What other effects might this have had?
    2. Several Jewish leaders were an official presence at the March on Washington. Jewish leadership represented on the platform included Shad Polier of the American Jewish Congress, Rabbi Leon Foyer of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, George Maislan of the United Synagogue of America, Rabbi Joachim Prinz of the American Jewish Congress, and Rabbi Uri Miller of the Synagogue Council of America. Why might these individuals have felt it was important to be there? Why did the organizers of the March feel it was important to include Jewish leadership? What significance do you think the public presence of Jewish leaders might have had on participants and those viewing/listening at home?
    3. While Rabbi Joachim Prinz seems to have had a message for Jewish participants, how do you think his message may have been received by non-Jewish participants?
    4. Do you ever feel hyphenated (part of a group with two identities)? Share some of your hyphenated identities with one another. Consider: When do you identify more strongly with the Jewish part of your identity? When do you identify more strongly with the American (or other) part of your identity? When do you identify more strongly with another part of your identity (besides Jewish or American)? What causes might you support as a Jew? What causes might you support as an American? What causes might you support as an…[insert another part of your identity here]?

    Who participated in the March on Washington?

    Central Conference of American Rabbis at the March on Washington

    Central Conference of American Rabbis at the March on Washington
    Full image
    Hillel Gamoran, Slide Collection No. 3487, The Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, 1963.

    Central Conference of American Rabbis photograph: Discussion Questions - Description

    1. What is going on here? What do you see that makes you say that?
    2. Based on the signs they are carrying, who do you think these marchers are?
    3. What do the signs they are carrying suggest that their organization supports?
    4. Based on what you know about this group, would you have expected them to have participated in the March on Washington? Why or why not?
    5. Why do you think they chose to march under this "banner"? What message do you think they were trying to send to other people at the March? To people who might see the March on TV?

    National Federation of Temple Youth at the March on Washington

    National Federation of Temple Youth at the March on Washington
    Full image
    Hillel Gamoran, Slide Collection No. 3488, The Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, 1963.

    NFTY photograph: Discussion Questions - Description

    1. What is going on here? What do you see that makes you say that?
    2. Based on the National Federation of Temple Youth banner they are carrying, who do you think these marchers are?
    3. What do the signs they are carrying suggest that their organization supports?
    4. Based on what you know about this group, would you have expected them to have participated in the March on Washington? Why or why not?
    5. Why do you think they chose to march under this "banner"? What message do you think they were trying to send to other people at the March? To people who might see the March on TV?

    The Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women’s Clubs at the March on Washington

    The Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs
    Full image
    Photograph of the Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women’s Clubs at the March on Washington, 1963. Courtesy of The Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

    Emma Lazarus Federation Photograph: Discussion Questions - Description

    1. What is going on here? What do you see that makes you say that?
    2. Based on the banner they are in front of, who do you think these marchers are?
    3. What does the banner behind them suggest that their organization supports?
    4. Would you have expected this type of group to have participated in the March on Washington? Why or why not?
    5. Why do you think they chose to march under this "banner"? What message do you think they were trying to send to other people at the March? To people who might see the March on TV?
    6. How is this group the same as or different from the groups in the first two pictures you examined?
    7. How, if at all, does this photograph affect your understanding of the March on Washington?
    • Optional: Visit JWA's Women of Valor exhibit on Emma Lazarus to learn more about the namesake of the Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs (ELF). Lazarus is the author of "The New Colossus," the poem on the Statue of Liberty that begins "Give me your tired, your poor…"
    • The Emma Lazarus Federation of Jewish Women's Clubs, founded in the 1950's, fought anti-Semitism and racism while celebrating Jewish culture and striving to provide, "leadership to women in the Jewish communities in our time in the same spirit as Emma Lazarus did in hers." How does knowing more about Emma Lazarus and the ELF impact your understanding of the photograph?

      Analysis

      After you examine all of the documents in your packet answer the following questions:

      1. Based on the photographs you've examined, make a list of some of the people/groups who participated in the March on Washington. Include both general and specific categories. (Remember that while this packet focused on Jewish participation in the March on Washington, most of the participants were not Jewish.)
      2. Each of the photographs you examined featured a group marching under a Jewish banner. Why do you think these marchers chose to identify themselves as Jewish marchers? When might you want to march under a Jewish banner? When might you not want to march under a Jewish banner? What other banner might you want to march under?
      3. Having examined these photos, do you identify with any of the groups or individuals pictured? Imagine that you had gone to the March on Washington. How might you have participated?

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      How to cite this page

      Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." (Viewed on April 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/teach/livingthelegacy/civilrights/march-on-washington-for-jobs-and-freedom>.