Part 1 of 2
The Marches on Washington 2013 are now over. Both days the marches occurred (August 24 and 28) were an intensification of what America needs to do to clean up its act for not fulfilling its goals and promises to African Americans. Since blacks have stepped on American shores as early as the 1600’s by historical data, this racial and ethnic group has survived and clawed their way in American society to be full-fledged citizens; many losing their lives in the process. This unfortunately has not taken place.
Blacks have been terrorized in this country through slavery, the Black Codes, Jim Crow laws and other forms of racism, segregation and hostility; subjugated by a white society that has brainwashed, controlled and threatened every aspect of their lives. But by having a strong spiritual substance, forbearance and dignity of oneself, blacks have been able to endure hardships; with many achieving their dreams and goals despite constant challenges.
The Marches of Washington are great examples of this – African Americans peacefully and nonviolently creating and organizing their plan of action to let their voices be heard. Marches have always been in the forefront for blacks speaking out, but the 1963 March and the two this year were televised so all Americans and those abroad had a chance to see what America is really like.
The 1963 March on Washington mainly had three significant issues that (white) America needed to provide – to stop racist practices and policies, to provide jobs with comparable pay, and to treat blacks as equal citizens (i.e. racism, jobs and freedom). But as black leaders and organizations suggested how the march was to be initiated, organized and finalized, many ideas conflicted; like many groups who come together to reach a common goal.
Wikipedia has given an outline in its March on Washington distribution; here is a caption of what the leaders wanted –
March organizers themselves disagreed over the purpose of the march. The NAACP and Urban League saw it as a gesture of support for a civil rights bill that had been introduced by the Kennedy Administration. Randolph, King, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) saw it as a way of raising both civil rights and economic issues to national attention beyond the Kennedy bill. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) saw it as a way of challenging and condemning the Kennedy administration's inaction and lack of support for civil rights for African Americans.
Despite their disagreements, the group came together on a set of goals:
• Passage of meaningful civil rights legislation;
• Immediate elimination of school segregation;
• A program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed;
• A Federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring;
• A $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide;
• Withholding Federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination;
• Enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from States that disenfranchise citizens;
• A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas;
• Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated.
Black leaders came together on the same page – all wanted civil rights for their people and all wanted to challenge the Kennedy administration in getting those rights into law (which the administration was taking its time on). Kennedy was initially against the march but gradually gave in.
Security measures were overblown with thousands of National Guardsmen, policemen, dogs, troops and helicopters overlooking the march. Liquor stores were closed. Threats came about to disrupt the march. What is so ironic about this is that blacks were not coming for revenge due to cruel treatment by whites; they were coming for what was rightfully theirs. The illogical steps taken only showed abhorrence; those who wanted the march to become a race riot, a rallying hateful cry, or completely ineffective. The media was waiting for negative incidents to happen. It didn’t happen.
Black leaders who spoke at the march included A. Philip Randolph (March Director), Floyd McKissick (who spoke for James Farmer, Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) Director, who was jailed at the time), John Lewis (youngest speaker at the march, member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Roy Wilkins (NAACP Leader), Whitney Young (Director, Urban League), and Dr. Marin Luther King, Jr. (President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC).
Although America was still overtly displaying racist behavior; many white supporters came, including celebrities. On one of the hottest days in August an immense crowd gathered; where anything could go wrong. For the most part many described the event on television specials shown last month that it was “a glorious, glorious day.”
It was a glorious day in 1963. But on the PBS show “Moyers and Company,” (July 29) host Bill Moyers interviewed U.S. Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) in reference to the march who said (paraphrase), “You create a climate, culture and environment to make those and others uncomfortable. After the march the enthusiasm died due to the four girls that were bombed in church.”