The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 1963

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Original Caption: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., 08/28/1963, U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 306-SSM-4C(43)26, from: Series Miscellaneous Subjects, Staff and Stringer Photographs, compiled 1961 – 1974, created by: U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978), Persistent URL: catalog.archives.gov/id/542008

“The march made Americans feel for the first time that we were capable of being truly a nation, that we were capable of moving beyond division and bigotry. […] The human spirit is like a flame. It flashes up and is gone. And you never know when the flame will come again.”[1] – Bayard Rustin, one of the organizers of the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs on August 28, 1963

200.000 people between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place on a Wednesday, August 28, in 1963. Remarkable was not only the high engagement and extent of the demonstration, but also the demonstrators who stayed nonviolent. The picture “Civil Rights March on Washington” shows the mass of people who wanted to fight for the rights and equality for people of color and it also shows the media interest and therefore the influence and impact of the event. In the center of the photograph is a cameraman, filming the crowd of people, and next to him a man who could probably be the producer. Even though the picture does not provide emotion through the face impressions of the persons in the middle, it leaves the impression of rush, protest and mass of people.

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Original Caption: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., 08/28/1963, Local Identifier: 306-SSM-4D(91)9, from: Series: Miscellaneous Subjects, Staff and Stringer Photographs, compiled 1961 – 1974, created by: U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978), Persistent URL: arcweb.archives.gov/arc/action/ExternalIdSearch?id=5420562

Uniting the major civil rights organization

The demonstration in 1963 wanted to unite all of the major civil rights organizations which is why the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership was founded earlier that year. Some of the men who were engaged in this organization that was supposed to coordinate the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs are also on the photo “Civil Rights March on Washington”. There are seven men (from right to left: Mathew Ahmann, Cleveland Robinson, Philip Randolph, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Joseph Rauh, Jr., John Lewis and Floyd McKissick) who are not posing for a photo, therefore it seems to be a snapshot. They are partly sitting in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The connection to Abraham Lincoln was intended: The demonstration wanted to remind of the 100th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. [2]  The picture also shows a key figure of the demonstration because John Lewis’ (chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)), speech was a very controversial discussed one. He wanted to criticize the politics of John F. Kennedy, speak about a revolution in the streets and about Jim Crow.[3] The speech was held in a revised form because the organizers of the demonstration thought it was too harsh. Nevertheless, the speech was a central item on the agenda of the march.

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Original Caption: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking.], 08/28/1963, U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 306-SSM-4D(107)8, from: Series Miscellaneous Subjects, Staff and Stringer Photographs, compiled 1961 – 1974, created By: U.S. Information Agency. Press and Publications Service. (ca. 1953 – ca. 1978), persistent URL: catalog.archives.gov/id/542068

The last speech – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:“I Have A Dream”

The final speech that was held during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the one from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Even though his criticism was not as harsh as Lewis intended for his speech, King spoke a lot about broken promises.[4] The picture “Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking.]” is a snapshot from the moment King held the speech. He is in the center, has a serious facial impression and speaks into many different microphones. Before the march took place, the organizers were concerned with the decision to let King’s speech be the last one. The other speakers did not want to deliver their speech after King which is why he finished the demonstration with his input. Today, “I Have A Dream” is the speech people remember the most.

References:

[1] Kirk, John A.: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, Harlow 2013, p.79.

[2] Kirk, John A.: Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, Harlow 2013, p. 73-77.

[3] Jones, William P.: The March on Washington. Jobs, Freedom, and the forgotten history of the Civil Rights, New York 2013, p. 191-192.

[4] Cook, Robert: Sweet Land of Liberty? The African-American Struggle for Civil Rights in the Twentieth Century, New York 2009, p. 135.

 

Mareike Gröneweg

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