This Day in History

Aug. 28, 1963: March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Time Periods: People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Labor, Organizing

On Aug. 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of people from across the United States marched on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

When most people think of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, what comes to mind is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic statement, “I Have a Dream.” In truth, there was much more to this historic event than these four words in King’s speech.

The March on Washington was a milestone in a movement that spanned many years of activism, organizing, and civil disobedience by a wide variety of civil rights’ groups. The date of the march itself symbolizes that long history—the March on Washington was held on the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (1863) and eight years to the day after 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi (Aug. 28, 1955).

Jobs and Justice March | Zinn Education Project

New York postal workers get on the bus for Washington. Source: the New York Metro Area Postal Union Photographs Collection, Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, NYU.

While Dr. King was a major player, the March on Washington did not begin as a classic civil rights march and was not initiated by him. There is one constituency that can legitimately claim the legacy of the march—one that has been eclipsed in both history as well as in much of the lead-up to the August 2013 commemorations: Black labor.

Continue reading “Claiming and Teaching the 1963 March on Washington” by Bill Fletcher Jr. on the hidden history of the 1963 March.