Barber, Lucy G(race) 1964-
BARBER, Lucy G(race) 1964-
Office—California State Archives, 1020 O St., Sacramento, CA 95814. E-mail—[email protected].
Educator and historian. California State Archives, Sacramento, archivist. Teacher of U.S. history at universities and colleges, including Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design, and University of California—Davis.
Sierra Book Prize, Western Association of Women Historians, 2003, for Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition.
Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.
Contributor to periodicals, including Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Historian Lucy G. Barber's Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition was published as Americans protested the 2003 United States invasion of Iraq. As she points out in her study, not all marches have been successful, but many have contributed to significant changes over the last two centuries of American history. Barber studies six important marches and questions the political purposes they serve and their effectiveness amid a sea of variously themed protest gatherings—the National Park Service now grants approximately 2,000 permits for planned Washington demonstrations each year. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that, "although she does not have answers to those questions, her historical perspective on the success and failure of previous marches provides a useful starting point."
Barber notes that the first march on Washington, D.C., occurred in 1894, when Jacob Coxey and Carl Browne, along with hundreds of unemployed men, walked to the nation's capital from Ohio to petition the government for road jobs and other work programs during a time of economic depression. When Coxey attempted to speak on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol, he was removed by authorities, but his was the first attempt to speak out to legislators on behalf of a group of citizens, and so he paved the way for more successful marches.
Alice Paul led the 1913 suffrage march on the day before the inauguration of Woodrow Wilson, when eight thousand people banded together to demand women's right to vote. Marches that became extremely violent included the Bonus March of 1932, during which World War I veterans who demanded war reparations were met with tear gas. Barber writes that "Negro March organizers and observers repeatedly drew attention to the precedents established by Coxey's Army and the Bonus March. Journalists, politicians, and activists were aware that many groups during the 1930s had imitated the Bonus marchers and their expedition to Washington. From pacifists to war hawks, anti-New Dealers to disgruntled relief workers, angry housewives to fearful Jewish leaders, all these groups brought their demands to the streets of Washington."
"All of which seems entirely commonplace to us now," wrote Jonathan Yardley in the Washington Post, "but Barber persuasively argues that before the protest march became institutionalized, basic notions about the nature of the capital and its relationship to the rest of the nation had to be re-examined and revised. The original assumption, at least on the part of the governing elite, was that Washington was meant to be apart from and above the hullabaloo of the crowed, a place to which the nation's leaders could repair to weigh the course of government undisturbed by the voices of the people themselves."
A planned march that never took place was the 1941 march on Washington organized by activist and head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters A. Philip Randolph to protest discrimination in the military and the exclusion of blacks from jobs during the defense boom. Announced well in advance of the July target date, the march drew so many supporters that President Franklin D. Roosevelt, fearing the effect it would have on the image of the United States, signed Executive Order 8802, which prohibited discrimination in military contracting. This act represented one of the few changes to federal policy that could be directly linked to a march on Washington.
Civil rights marches were conducted with frequency during the middle of the twentieth century, and the 1963 march culminated with Martin Luther King, Jr.,'s "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial. In 1971 the Vietnam War was protested in multiple marches, but they had little effect on public sentiment. Barber points out that not all marchers are motivated by liberal causes. Some, like the participants in the Million Man March, march for "personal affirmation and movement building," while others march to promote conservative points of view.
In reviewing Marching on Washington in the Washington Times, Sarah Marcisz noted the February 26, 2003 Virtual March on Washington, writing that now "technology has made it possible to organize a march that involves no actual walking." Library Journal's Thomas A. Karel added that the details of each of the six marches studied by Barber "make fascinating reading," and called Barber's research "impressive."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Barber, Lucy G., Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 2002.
American Journal of Sociology, September, 2003, Nella Van Dyke, review of Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition, p. 512.
Chronicle of Higher Education, January 31, 2003, Nina C. Ayoub, review of Marching on Washington, p. A19.
History: Review of New Books, fall, 2003, Linda Kelly Alkana, review of Marching on Washington, p. 7.
Library Journal, December, 2002, Thomas A. Karel, review of Marching on Washington, p. 147.
Publishers Weekly, November 18, 2002, review of Marching on Washington, p. 49.
Washington Post, February 2, 2003, Jonathan Yardley, review of Marching on Washington.
Washington Times, March 6, 2003, Sarah Marcisz, review of Marching on Washington.*