Commemorating 60th Anniversary of March on Washington
60 years ago today, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the March on Washington. He stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. But that cannot be the only lens through which we commemorate this historic event, especially as some seek to obscure certain aspects of the people's movement for justice.
Take for instance the fact that the full title of the event was “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” While not often acknowledged, economic justice was at the forefront of both the march and King’s message.
What also is often left out are some of the names of the others like Bayard Rustin, Rev. Prathia Hall, and Septima Clark who had a profound impact on the success of the march and speech.
And further often left untold are the lesser-known excerpts from Dr. King’s speech. Early in his remarks, King spoke about how the promise of the nation had continuously fallen short for Black and Brown Americans: “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.”
It was true in 1963, and today, in 2023, Black and Brown communities are still fighting that fight. Economic opportunity. Voting rights. Housing security. Healthcare access. Equitable education. Gun violence prevention. The list continues.
So even as we honor the March on Washington and recognize the hard-won progress we have made in the intervening years, we would be doing a true disservice to King, his words, and the call that inspired so many to come together in 1963, if we didn’t also acknowledge that we have so much more left to do.
This is the work we are doing and the work we must continue, no matter the roadblocks we encounter or the challenges we face. No matter the forces trying to erase our shared history. We will speak and teach the truth. We will not be deterred.
As King spoke 60 years ago in another rarely-mentioned quote: “This is our hope. 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.”