civil-rights-march

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March 7th 1965: Bloody Sunday in Selma

On this day in 1965, a civil rights march took place from Selma to Birmingham, Alabama; it became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’. At this stage, the Civil Rights Movement had been in motion for over a decade and already achieved legislative success with the Civil Rights Act. However the focus of the movement now became making the promise of equal franchise guaranteed in the Fifteenth Amendment a reality. While African-Americans exercised the right to vote in the years after the amendment’s passage in 1870, discriminatory measures like literacy tests, poll taxes, and grandfather clauses were soon implemented across the country to deprive them of the vote. Thus in 1965 civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. made voter registration the core of their efforts, centering the campaign on the particularly discriminatory Selma, AL. On March 7th - 'Bloody Sunday’ - as the six hundred unarmed marchers were crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge, they were descended upon by state troopers who viciously beat the protestors. The violence encountered by these peaceful marchers, which was captured on television and broadcast around the world, led to national outcry and caused President Johnson to publicly call for the passage of his administration’s proposed voting rights bill. After securing the support of federal troops, another march was held on March 21st, and with the protection of soldiers the marchers managed to arrive in Montgomery after three days. The marchers were met in Montgomery - the epicentre of the movement and the site of the 1954 bus boycott - by 50,000 supporters, who were addressed by King. Their efforts were rewarded when, in August of that year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act that ensured all Americans could vote. This was one of the crowning achievements of the Civil Rights Movement, and the Selma to Montgomery march is commemorated as one of the most important moments of the struggle.

“We are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us. The burning of our churches will not deter us. The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us. We are on the move now…not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us. We are moving to the land of freedom
- King’s 'Address at the Conclusion of the Selma to Montgomery March’ - 25th March, 1965

50 years ago today

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Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

Washington, D.C. - August 28, 1963

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Some other facts about Josephine Baker (Freda Josephine McDonald)

  • She first married at the age of 13
  • She danced alongside Ethel Waters at the Plantation Club in New York City
  • She tried to bring her career to America in 1936 but the racism forced her back to France
  • She was a member of the Free French forces during WWII
  • She also worked for the French Resistance during WWII. She smuggled messages in her underwear and music sheets.
  • She was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honour for her work with the French military
  • She was married 4 times
  • She adopted 12 children from around the world
  • She attended the March on Washington and was one of the speaker’s
  • In 1973 she finally got to perform at Carnegie Hall in NYC
  • Princess Grace of Monaco was a friend of Josephine Baker
  • Josephine Baker died in her sleep of a cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1975 at the age of 69
  •  Over 20,000 people attended her funeral procession in Paris
  • May 20th is Josephine Baker Day as declared by the NAACP because of her Civil Rights work

Sources: wikipedia

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Selma 50 years later.

“Because of what they did, the doors of opportunity swung open not just for African-Americans, but for every American,” President Barack Obama said, standing in front of the Edmund Pettus Bridge where the violence took place.

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August 28th 1963: March on Washington

On this day in 1963, 50 years ago today, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place. The march was a key moment of the Civil Rights Movement and a triumph for the nonviolence philosophy which underpinned the movement. The March is best remembered for Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. Other speakers included chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee John Lewis and veteran civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph. When politicians in Washington heard about the march many, including President John F. Kennedy, feared that there would be violence and rioting. The peaceful gathering of over 250,000 supporters of civil rights, with many whites in attendance as well as African-Americans, spurred America into action. In 1964 Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act and in 1965 the Voting Rights Act.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’…
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

50 years ago today

Happy Birthday to civil rights and women’s rights activist Dorothy Height! Born in 1912, Height dedicated her life to the Civil Rights Movement. Though Height was frustrated that women were often treated as inferiors within the Civil Rights Movement, she helped organize the 1963 March on Washington and attended MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.“

From the National Women’s History Museum Facebook page

Josephine Baker, in her French Free Air Force uniform, and Lena Horne in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 28 Aug 1963. 

Josephine Baker was the only woman to address the crowds that day.

UPDATE 23/9/2013:

AuntAda adds this commentary: Just a clarification regarding the March on Washington. Josephine Baker addressed the crowd at the March before the official program began. Daisy Bates was actually the only woman to deliver one of the March’s keynote addresses. Bates was the substitute speaker for Myrlie Evers, who was originally scheduled to speak but was unable to attend the event.

READ MORE

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August 28, 1963: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom begins.

Fifty years ago, between 200,000 and 300,000 protesters gathered in Washington, D.C. for a historic march that, 100 years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, sought to bring national attention to the persistent problems faced by black Americans. Most were related to economic inequality, and others to disenfranchisement and segregation, and so the march was dubbed the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”. At the time, the Kennedy Administration was taking steps to pass a civil rights bill, for which the march was also meant to show support, that was originally proposed to the American public by the president earlier that summer. This bill was eventually signed into law as the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

The demonstration was primarily led and coordinated by a coalition of different organizations and leaders: A. Philip Randolph, longtime civil rights activist and labor leader; James Farmer of CORE; John Lewis of SNCC; Martin Luther King, Jr. of the SCLC; Roy Wilkins of the NAACP; and Whitney Young of the National Urban League. Bayard Rustin, whose homosexuality was often attacked by other civil rights leaders and perceived as damaging to their cause, was the march’s chief organizer. Other influences perceived as too radical (communists, and anything that might have drawn demonstrators away from non-violent protest) were excluded as well. Phrases criticizing the federal government’s inaction, criticisms of the president’s civil rights bill, and mentions of revolution and “scorched earth” were cut from John Lewis’ speech, deemed too inflammatory.

Martin Luther King’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, remains the defining moment of the march and a defining moment of the era. 

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Official Program for the March on Washington 

50 years ago on August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 demonstrators descended upon the nation’s capital to participate in the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Not only was it the largest demonstration for human rights in United States history, but it also occasioned a rare display of unity among the various civil rights organizations. The event began with a rally at the Washington Monument featuring several celebrities and musicians. Participants then marched the mile-long National Mall to the Memorial. The three-hour long program at the Lincoln Memorial included speeches from prominent civil rights and religious leaders. The day ended with a meeting between the march leaders and President John F. Kennedy at the White House.

The idea for the 1963 March on Washington was envisioned by A. Philip Randolph, a long-time civil rights activist dedicated to improving the economic condition of black Americans. When Randolph first proposed the march in late 1962, he received little response from other civil rights leaders. He knew that cooperation would be difficult because each had his own agenda for the civil rights movement, and the leaders competed for funding and press coverage. Success of the March on Washington would depend on the involvement of the so-called “Big Six”—Randolph and the heads of the five major civil rights organizations: Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Whitney Young, Jr., of the National Urban League; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); James Farmer of the Conference of Racial Equality (CORE); and John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The details and organization of the march were handled by Bayard Rustin, Randolph’s trusted associate. Rustin was a veteran activist with extensive experience in putting together mass protest. With only two months to plan, Rustin established his headquarters in Harlem, NY, with a smaller office in Washington. He and his core staff of 200 volunteers quickly put together the largest peaceful demonstration in U.S. history.

via Our Documents - Official Program for the March on Washington (1963)

The National Archives marks the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom with a featured display of an iconic image from the march, a special program and film screenings of THE MARCH, James Blue’s 1964 film that documents this event.

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The 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

On Aug. 28, 1963, more than 200,000 Americans took to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. to call for civil, and economic, equality - a message that still resonates with with demonstrators today.

That humid summer day would eventually be most remembered for civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, an address which has since been universally applauded for ascending to the top of the oratory mountaintop.

But the days leading up to the march weren’t without worry, with Americans highly skeptical of the cause, and pundits predicting that little would come of the march, which is now regarded as one of the high water marks of the civil rights movement.

So run through the Times’ 1963 coverage of the march, take a look through scenes of the demonstrations or follow along with the accounts of those who were there on that monumental day.

Photos: Associated Press, Getty Images, Los Angeles Times