Fifty Years On: Legacy of the March on Washington


Sign-carrying demonstrators at the March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Fifty years ago a protest march of more than 200,000 Americans converged on the nation’s capital to demand civil rights for African Americans. The March on Washington that culminated in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech took place on August 28, 1963, under the organizational guidance of Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph. The march was itself a commemoration—of the Emancipation Proclamation 100 years before. And by gathering at the Lincoln Memorial demonstrators called the nation to focus on the yet-unfulfilled legacy of freedom, equality, and dignity for all Americans.

The 1963 march was unprecedented in American history, bringing a huge throng virtually to the steps of the Capitol to lobby Congress to pass meaningful civil rights legislation. For it was not just the setting for a soaring, transcendent speech, but also a springboard for down-to-earth efforts to persuade legislators to pass the Civil Rights Act. It was a high-water mark for peaceful demonstrations in the civil rights movement, but it was just one more milestone on a journey that continues.

King’s speech was as eloquent a message as has ever been uttered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. In it, the Baptist preacher and father of four expressed his longing for an America that would deliver on the promise of equality inherent in the Declaration of Independence. As Americans gather this August to remember that march, that speech, many will be asking: Has Reverend King’s dream been fulfilled?

Image credit: © Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Division

Related Links

  • An Oral History of the March on Washington
    Check out this historical overview of the civil rights march that changed American history; includes interviews (some with video clips) and photographs.
    (Source: Smithsonian, July–August 2013)
  • March on Washington features videos, photo galleries, an interactive time line, and documents about the historic 1963 demonstration.
    (Source:; accessed August 5, 2013)
  • PBS Press Release
    This announcement by PBS details the special programming that will be aired in commemoration of the March on Washington in 1963.
    (Source: PBS, July 1, 2013)
  • Civil Rights Anniversaries
    This “almanac” entry notes the intersection of anniversaries: not just the March on Washington’s 50th, but also the Emancipation Proclamation’s 150th; includes related links to African American history resources.
    (Source:; accessed August 5, 2013)
  • 50th Anniversary March on Washington
    Check out the website of the “March for Jobs and Justice” scheduled for August 28, 2013, in Washington—which will be part commemoration and part imitation—that features “Voices of the March,” “I Was There,” and a contest for middle and high school students.
    (Source: 50th Anniversary March on Washington; accessed August 5, 2013)
  • Martin Luther King Jr.: “I Have a Dream”
    Watch and listen to five minutes’ worth of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech (delivered at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, DC, August 28, 1963).
    (Source: YouTube; accessed August 5, 2013)


  1. jordan says:


  2. slender man in your face says:

    great for the black people of america

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