The 1963 march on Washington was a major event in a tradition of orderly non-violent protest. Asa Philip Randolph, the man who proposed the 1963 March on Washington, tried to stage a march on Washington over twenty years before. At that time, he accepted President Roosevelt’s order and created the Fair Employment Practice Committee and the 1940 march was called off (Saunders 16). However, in 1963 there were mounting reasons to have this walk; black unemployment, violence against demonstrators in Birmingham, and the Civil Rights Bill were all reaching peak interest at this time and the march could wait no longer.
It took a bit of convincing to get President Kennedy to allow the march to happen, but in the end he gave the go ahead declaring that the march would be “in the great tradition of peaceful assembly for the redress of grievance” (Wexler 180). Our most recent source, published in 2002, states that “[the marchers] had the unprecedented blessing of President John F. Kennedy” (Barber 141). However, it should be noted that texts written around 1963 show that Kennedy was indeed leery about letting the march take place and he originally attempted to dissuade the organizers from marching. Kennedy feared that the demonstration would lead to violence and the disruption of Congress and the capital (Wexler 179).
The day of the march started with people slowly arriving at the Washington Monument around seven o’clock AM. The organizers were a little nervous about the size of their turn out until the rush of forty thousand people at nine o’clock AM. By eleven o’clock AM, the number had doubled (Saunders 9). Sources agree that greater than 20...
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Barber, Lucy G. Marching on Washington: The Forging of An American Political
Tradition. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.
“Civil Rights Movement.” Encyclopedia of American Political History. 1st ed. 1984.
Fey, Harold E. “Revolution Without Hatred.” Christian Century 11 Sept. 1963: 1094-95.
Jeffrey, Jonathan. “Social Sciences Book Review” Library Journal June 1993: 154-55.
“Marching on Washington: An Old Story to the Capital.” US News and World Report
2 Sept. 1963: 29.
Reston, James. “The White Man’s Burden and All That.” New York Times 28 Aug.
Saunders, Doris E., ed. The Day They Marched. Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company
Wexler, Sanford. An Eyewitness History of the Civil Rights Movement. New York:
Checkmark Books: An Imprint of Facts On File Inc., 1993.
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