Before Martin Luther King Junior, the African American civil rights movement was just another injust idea in the U.S. Segregation was the practice of requiring different housing, education, and other services for people of color. It was made law several times in the 18th and 19th century America. At the time in 1862 President Lincoln entertained the idea of opening channels for colonization in ex-slave countries such as Liberia and Haiti with $600,000 to help. “The first steps toward official segregation came in the form of “Black codes.” These were laws passed throughout the South starting around 1865, that dictated most aspects of black peoples’ lives, including where they could work and live. The codes also ensured black people’s availability for cheap labor after slavery was abolished.” states in the article the article “Segregation in the United States” from the history.com editors. Soon after segregation was an official policy enforced by Southern laws called the “Jim Crow laws” named after a disparaging term for black people. Soon after everything began to be segregated such as schools, jails, public parks, cemeteries, residential homes, and more. Fassforward to early june 1966 Martin Luther King jr. an American Christian Minister and Civil Rights activist was a rising name in America at the time In efforts of being a major pillar and leader in America he formed a group called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “Dr. King and his “Southern Christian Leadership Conference” shifted northward to Chicago and the two other most influential activist groups, the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), had installed new, little-known leaders: Floyd McKissick and Stokely Carmichael.” said from the article “ The Civil Rights movement before and after Martin Luther King Jr. The build up of civil injustice towards colored people was the trigger to plot out a mass march for the whole world to see ultimitaly in the end. A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin continues to organize around the idea of a mass march on Washington. They envisioned several large marches during the 1940’s but they were called off.
Washington D.C August 28th, 1963 marked the date of the famous March on Washington and the “I Have A Dream Speech.” The speech was a defining moment in the civil rights movement and among one of the most iconic speeches in American History. Beginning with a reference to the Emancipation Proclamation which freed millions of slaves in 1863. Dr. King said “ one hundred years later, the negro still is not free”. The march was organized by the ‘Big Six’ leaders of the civil rights movement: A. Philip Randolph, Whitney M. Young Jr., Martin Luther King Jr., James Farmer, Roy Wilkins and John Lewis. Bayard Rustin was chief organizer of the march. The purpose of the march was to advocate for the civil rights of African Americans. Observers estimated around 75-80% of the marchers were black proving the sense of community and importance at this moment in time. The march was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history. This march is credited to helping pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and preceded the Selma Voting Movement which led to the passage of the Voting rights in 1965. Although African Americans who were once slaves had been legally freed from slavery, elevated to the status of citizens and the men given the right voting rights at the end of the American Civil War, many continued to face social, economic, and political repression over the years into the 1960’s.
The March on Washington was obviously meant to raise awareness on civil injustice towards black African Americans but it was much bigger than that. Dr. King used peaceful protesting as a form of fighting this and this is what you could say was a conclusion to the movement. The march was successful in pressuring the administration to proceed with a strong federal civil rights bill in Congress . “The threat of 100,000 marchers in Washington, D.C., pushed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, which mandated the formation of the Fair Employment Practices Commission to investigate racial discrimination charges against defense firms. In response, Randolph cancelled plans for the march” coming from the article “March on Washington For Jobs and Freedom” of Stanford University. The rising tide of civil rights agitation greatly influenced national opinion and resulted in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, guaranteeing equal voting rights, outlawing discrimination in restaurants, theatres, and other public accommodations involved in intersate commerce, and encouraging school desegregation. The National Association for the Advancement the Color people (NAACP), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) put aside their differences and came together for the march. Many white and black people also came together in urgency for the change in the nation. The March on Washington helped create an understanding of the racial and economical injustice in the America at the time. “With activist from New York, The Mississippi Delta, or Cambridge, Md all describing their encounters with police brutality, labor descrimination, or house deterioration it become very difficult to cast racial segregation as an exclusively southern problem.” Stated by John Hopkins History professor Nathan Connolly. “At the start of the 1960s, unemployment was not the principal economic problem facing black Americans; underemployment was. In New Orleans, Miami, and other Southern cities, for instance, African-Americans principally occupied unskilled, menial, and servile positions in agriculture or domestic work, sometimes in proportions in excess of 80 percent” (Connolly). At the start of the 1960’s, unemployment was not the principal in economic problem facing black Americans. In big cities down south like Miami and New Orleans black Americans had jobs that required no skill, menial, and hard labor like. The march and the people that attended insisted demanding an increase in minimum wage, increased protections against unlawful terminations, require government programs for training, and provide retirement and health benefits. These demands strived for fair employment laws as well as affirmative action. The march on Washington also gave. The Kennedy administration attention in that fact that African Americans grievances emerged from urban to rural underemployment. “ In fact, Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, in 1964, was able, to claim that the employment programs of the Great Society were an extension of the civil rights agenda without making any specific reference to race or African-Americans largely because the 1963 march had already reasserted the link between civil rights and economic rights”(Connolly). In the end, The March on Washington brought much attention to the poor laws the were in place to discriminate black Americans at the time. The march triggered Ideas not only for Dr. King but for many other smaller names to do something about the injustice that was going on in America. The speech inspired people to fight whether it was physically, vocally ,or even silently. The speech also made it clear to white Americans that this was a problem and that nothing will stop until the black americans were proven equal as human beings the way it should have started off as. Even today there is so much racism in the world but no one wants to bring it to attention, everyone just wants to brush it off like it’s not a problem. Racism today comes in forms of verbal abuse, police brutality, racial descrimination, and too many more to count. Today to fight this people are peacefully and sometimes violently protesting in major cities and areas where the majority of the population is African American to feel that support and strength in numbers. A football player by the name of Colin Kaepernick on september 1rst, 2016 took a knee during the national anthem protesting police brutality. This became a natural thing for him to do and it influenced athletes around the world to take a stand in what they believe in. “San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick says he refused to stand during the national anthem Friday because of his views on the country’s treatment of racial minorities.“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Mediaafter Friday’s game. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder”-Nick Wagner of the Espn Staff. “Numerous high-profile athletes have spoken out about civil rights issues in the wake of gun violence throughout the United States. In July, Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul opened the ESPYS with a call for social change and an end to violence, and WNBA players wore warm-up shirts to show solidarity after shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, Louisiana” (Wagner).
As you can see The March on Washington was just a start to the rise of social justice in the U.S. The Colin Karpernick act is just a more modern day example. Injustice against colored people has always been a problem in America dating back to Native Americans. People never really knew when to take a stand because they always felt powerless and outnumbered. Even during the march a quarter million people attended in support of the cause listening to the speech. In the end, Dr. King’s inspirational speech triggered the rise of social and economical justice between black Americans and white people. Even though Dr. Kings life was cut short his reign still lives till today inspiring many young people of color to take action against people who discriminate and oppress them. His fight will always be remembered and go down in history as one of the most monumental movements in the world.
- Garrow, David J. “The Civil Rights Movement before and after Martin Luther King, Jr.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 7 Feb. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-civil-rights-movement-before-and-after-martin-luther-king-jr/2014/02/07/11493318-8383-11e3-bbe5-6a2a3141e3a9_story.html.
- History.com Editors. “Segregation in the United States.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 28 Nov. 2018, www.history.com/topics/black-history/segregation-united-states.
- “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 30 May 2019, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/march-washington-jobs-and-freedom.
- TheUndefeated. “Colin Kaepernick Protests Anthem over Treatment of Minorities.” The Undefeated, The Undefeated, 3 Sept. 2016, theundefeated.com/features/colin-kaepernick-protests-anthem-over-treatment-of-minorities/.
- report, Hub staff. “JHU History Professor Discusses the Significance of the March on Washington.” The Hub, 26 Aug. 2013, hub.jhu.edu/2013/08/26/march-on-washington-economic-justice/.