On August 28 1963, a quarter of a million people rallied in Washington, D.C. to demand an end to segregation, fair wages and economic justice, voting rights, education, and long overdue civil rights protections. Civil rights leaders took to the podium to issue urgent calls to action that still resonate decades later. Music played a powerful role at the March, and decades later, the performances remain some of the most iconic of the era. People traveled from every corner of the country to join the March, and the unprecedented turnout was the product of the tireless work of civil rights strategist Bayard Rustin, A. Phillip Randolph, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a coalition of civil rights, labor and religious organizations.
"Go by plane, by car, bus, any way you can get there- walk if necessary. We are pushing jobs, housing, desegregated schools. This is an urgent request. Please join, go to Washington."
Longtime strategist Bayard Rustin led the logistical operations for the March, creating an Organizing Manual for local organizers that laid out the logistics, talking points, and demands. Organizers across the country went to work during the summer of 1963 to mobilize their communities and ensure safe passage to Washington. They held meetings, distributed guides for what to expect, raised funds, coordinated buses and trains, and prepared thousands of meals.
As buses pulled into Washington, D.C. and hundreds arrived via trains onto the National Mall, the gravity of the moment and movement was clear. A quarter of a million people marched — the unprecedented turnout was a testament to the power of organizing.
"That we meet here today is a tribute also to all Black Americans, who for 100 years have continued in peaceful and orderly protest to bear witness to our deep faith in America." - Whitney M. Young
"Give us the ballot, and we will fill our legislative halls with men of goodwill and send to the sacred halls of Congress. Men who will not sign a “Southern Manifesto” because of their devotion to the manifesto of justice.
Give us the ballot and we will quietly and nonviolently, without rancor or bitterness, implement the Supreme Court’s decision of May seventeenth, 1954."