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March on Washington


MARCH ON WASHINGTON. In June 1941, Asa Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, informed President Franklin D. Roosevelt that 100,000 protesters would march on the nation's capital unless the president acted to end racial discrimination in federal government and defense industry employment. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 (barring discrimination in the government and defense industry), thereby averting the march.

Randolph revived his idea for a mass march in 1963. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as it came to be known, addressed issues including high unemployment rates for African Americans, school integration, violence against civil rights activists, and a proposed civil rights bill. Randolph selected Bayard Rustin, a civil rights veteran whom Randolph had mentored, to organize the march. The planners brought together major civil rights groups and leaders from religious organizations and labor unions. President John F. Kennedy, unable to dissuade organizers from carrying out their plans, hesitantly sanctioned the march.

On 28 August 1963, 250,000 people walked from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, where they listened to speeches from representatives of the various organizations. At the day's end, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his powerful and memorable "I Have a Dream" speech. The interracial, peaceful assembly demonstrated to the public the influence, unity, and optimism of the civil rights alliance.


Levine, Daniel. Bayard Rustin and the Civil Rights Movement. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

Pfeffer, Paula F. A. Philip Randolph, Pioneer of the Civil RightsMovement. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990.


See alsoBrotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters ; Civil Rights Movement ; Civil Rights Act of 1964 .

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