The 1963 March on Washington

Photo Essay

Civil Rights Demonstrators, Washington, 1963. Courtesy of the National Archives.

Initiated by A. Philip Randolph, the march was sponsored by five of the largest civil rights organizations in the United States. The major organizers and leaders of the march were Randolph, Whitney Young, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, John Lewis, and Martin Luther King Jr. Planning for the event was complicated by differences among groups and their leaders. Bayard Rustin, who organized the first Freedom Ride in 1947, orchestrated and administered the details of the march in just two months out of a small office in Harlem, New York.

Participants arrived on 28 August in chartered buses, private cars, trains, and planes. One man famously roller-skated from Chicago. By the time the march began at the Washington Monument around 250,000 people had gathered. The diverse crowd included African Americans and whites, young people and old, rich and famous Hollywood movie stars and musicians, and everyday people. Moving down Constitution and Independence Avenues, the peaceful crowd gathered before the Lincoln Memorial to hear a day of speeches and performances, most famously Mahalia Jackson's rendition of "I've Been 'Buked and I've Been Scorned," and Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

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