Martin Luther King and the 1962 March on Washington

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Historians offer different perceptions of the significance of Martin Luther King and the 1963 March on Washington. Without examining this event within its historical context the media publicity and iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech can easily overshadow progress that was already underway in America. It was insisted by prominent civil rights activist Ella Baker, ‘the movement made Martin rather than Martin making the movement.’ What is important not to overlook is the significant change that took place in the United States during the previous 100 years. Such that, many influential figures in support of racial equality opposed the March. The Civil Rights Act proposed by President Kennedy in 1963 was already in the legislative process. Furthermore the Federal Government was now reasserting power over the entire of the United States by enforcing a policy of desegregation. It is important to note that these changes all took place less than one hundred years after the Thirteenth Amendment in 1965 abolished slavery, and the Fourteenth amendment in 1968 acknowledged the rights of former slaves to be acknowledged as U.S citizens. With this level of progress Kennedy was against the March going ahead due to the argument that it was limited in what it could achieve. Today, King’s 1963 Speech is viewed as one of the most iconic speeches in history. However, was it a key turning point in African Americans achieving racial equality? Federal endorsement would suggest yes after decades of southern states being able to subvert the Federal law designed to break down segregation. This support built upon the corner stones of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth amendments in the nineteenth century. Therefore looking at the national status of black Americans fro... ... middle of paper ... ... was also the clearest way of drawing the Federal Government to the support for the civil rights campaign and the large force that black Americans represented. However, I do not believe that this alone achieved racial equality in America. It is easy to overlook the work of organisations such as the SNCC and SCLC. These played a crucial part in helping to invoke protest that developed in the form of widespread civil disobedience campaigns. Moreover the impact of two World Wars acted as a catalyst as they changed the World and America’s position in it. It created a domestic issue for the United States that needed to be dealt with. America as an emerging Superpower could no longer continue like this. However what is clear is that King’s beautifully articulated speech combined with the mass participation in the March created a day that captured the World’s imagination.

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