On August 28th, 2013, the country will remember the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. On August 28, 1963, over 250,000 people gathered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to hear civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The date marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The 1963 Freedom March was organized by A. Philip Randolph, Whitney M. Young, Jr., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, John Lewis and Bayard Rustin and presented an impressive group of speakers, including King himself, to headline the massive event, which drew more than a quarter million people to the nation’s capital (with many more watching on television and listening on radio).
The purpose of the march was to call the nation’s attention to the injustice and inequalities that African Americans faced because of the color of their skin. A year after the march, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, outlawing segregation in public places, requiring equal employment opportunities, and protecting the voting rights of every American, regardless of the color of their skin.
Two marches will be held which will trace the same 1.6 mile route marchers took in 1963. The August 24th march will be followed by the opening of a Global Freedom Festival on the National Mall. Civil rights activists, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III and the family of Emmett Till are expected to attend. The August 28th march will be led by “veterans” of the ’63 march and the Civil Rights Museum on Wheels – a fully restored transit bus used during the segregation era. The march will culminate with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial where President Barack Obama, in what is certain to be its own historic moment, will address the nation from the very spot where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech 50 years ago on August 28, 1963, as part of a week-long celebration of the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (aka the Freedom March). Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton will also speak at the event.
In addition to the marches, the King Center and the 50th Anniversary Coalition are calling on people and organizations across America to help culminate the 50th anniversary of The March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech with “Let Freedom Ring” bell-ringing events at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on August 28th, a fifty years to the minute after Dr. King delivered his historic address, which concluded with a call to ‘Let freedom ring.’ In other nations, there will be bell-ringing ceremonies at 3:00 p.m. in their respective time zones.
Local groups are encouraged to participate with commemorative programs and bell-ringing ceremonies of their own. The King Center requests that all groups planning programs submit a brief description of your 50th anniversary ‘Let Freedom Ring’ bell-ringing event to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Steve Klein at SKlein@thekingcenter.org.
In an effort to provide a deeper understanding of the history, preserve testimony from those who were there, and offer a chance to take stock of whether progress has been made on the goals of the original marchers, PBS commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington with a week of programming, including the premiere of the new documentary, The March, narrated by Denzel Washington, the debut of the provocative web series, The March @50, and Memories of the March: Video Interviews with Original Participants and More – Click Here for more information on anniversary programming.
To view Martin Luther King, Jr. giving his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in its entirety, click on the video below.
To view the original typed copy of the “I Have a Dream” text at the National Archives, Click Here.