WASHINGTON—For many who attendedthe 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, held on August 26, it was a day to remember the past and look toward the future. It brought thousands to the nation’s capital to continue the call for justice started in 1963 by a group of civil rights activists who included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Dr. Charles Steele, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference started by Dr. King spoke to The Final Call after he spoke to the crowd. “This day is to clarify and define the fact that America is guilty of racism. We will never be free as a people until America is healed. Being healed is a priority for freedom and justice for African Americans and all fair-minded people.”
He told the crowd, “We ain’t free! We have a long ways to go, and politics has never freed the oppressed, the oppressed must free politics. You must understand that we must hold our elected officials accountable. You must understand that no man is an island. We must understand that we are in this thing together.
The diameter of your mind is determined by the circumference of your environment. You must realize it’s your socialization of folks who not afraid, scared folks can’t lead nothing!”
Blacks and supporters came to D.C. six decades ago for the “March for Jobs and Freedom.” According to historians, this was the largest city for Blacks at the time, yet many places were still segregated.
Walter Cronkite, CBS News anchor, introduced the evening news on August 28, 1963 stating, “They called it the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” He continued, “They came from all over America.
Negroes and Whites, housewives and Hollywood stars, senators and a few beatniks, clergymen and probably a few Communists. More than 200,000 of them came to Washington this morning in a kind of climax to a historic spring and summer in the struggle for equal rights.”
1963 march organizers included activist Asa Philip Randolph, 74 at the time, and instrumental in convincing President Harry Truman to integrate the U.S. military after World War II; James Farmer, who created the Congress of Racial Equity and organized the Freedom Rides of 1961; a young John Lewis, and Whitney Young.
Speakers during the 60th anniversary commemoration included Muslim speakers and women, who were not invited to speak 60 years ago. Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation also spoke on behalf of the Black Women’s Roundtable, and Black Youth Vote.
“Sixty years ago, our movement family marched for jobs and freedom. Today we march for power, rights, freedom, justice, and the vote. Today we march to send a message to white nationalists and racists that we, Black people, Brown people, and Indigenous people were not the erased.”
“Sixty years ago, Black women leaders were recognized but did not have a speaking role. Today we stand on the shoulders of Dr. Dorothy Height, Diane Nash, Myrlie Evers Williams, and others. We are not only speaking today, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with our brothers leading this march and the movement,” she said.
When the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam spoke at the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington in 1983, his speech was hailed in the Washington Post as the “Best at the March” quoting march organizers and participants.
“Every Black man, woman and child in this country, indeed, every Black person on the earth, has benefited from the civil rights movement and the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all of the martyrs that shed their blood to make his dream a reality,” the Minister shared that day.
“No longer can we be separate, you there and me here or me here and you there,” said Minister Farrakhan. “You Muslim, you Christian, you Baptist, you Catholic, we cannot tolerate any longer these artificial barriers that divide us as a people.” Minister Farrakhan shared that he came to the rally to “lift up my voice” in protest with “Christians and Jews and Muslims and agnostics and atheists and Black men and White men and Brown men and Yellow men and women.”
This year’s march was organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. It brought a multicultural intergenerational coalition of nearly 100 national organizations to the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, August 26.
While the original March on Washington centered around jobs and economic opportunities, recent data from the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) shows Black and Brown Americans continue to face these challenges and more. The median wealth gap between Black and White households has widened by $40,000 over the last 60 years, from $121,000 in 1963 to $161,000 today.
Student debt, which overwhelmingly hits Black Americans harder, is a driving factor for this jaw dropping gap—with limited relief in sight after the Supreme Court struck down the Biden administration’s plan to wipe as much as $20,000 per borrower.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have come 60 years later because we need to serve indictments to those who have been adversarial to the advancement of our people,” said Dr. Jamal Harrison Bryant pastor of New Birth Missionary Church. “We need to give an indictment to Mr. DeSantis who has operated in diabolical satanic form.
If he thinks that he can throw off that slavery was nothing more than trade school, he needs to be served an indictment,” said Rev. Bryant, referring to Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.
“Something is wrong. There needs to be an indictment on churches that are silent, but they speak in tongues. But don’t speak truth to power, an indictment on churches that only give out communion, but do not feed those who are living in food deserts, and an indictment of those who have multimillion dollar buildings but close a blind eye to those who do not have a decent standard of living.”
Other speakers included Rev. Al Sharpton, who helped organize the march with the King family; former Congressman and Dr. King aide Andrew Young, and House Minority Leader Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).
Danielle Johnson brought her dad and daughter to the march. She told The Final Call, “I was a little girl when my dad and his brothers went to the original march. My mom cooked food for them to take. I wanted my daughter to know that history is not just what we read but something we can be a part of.”