March on Washington: 50 Years

An estimated crowd of 100,000 gathered along both sides of the Reflecting Pool to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, talking of progress made in overcoming racial bias and the challenges that remain to close economic, social, and equity gaps. The five-hour rally, held four days before the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, featured short talks and longer speeches that focused on economic inequality, racial profiling, and attempts by states to restrict voter access.

Speakers included Martin Luther King III, Al Sharpton, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, an organizer of the original 1963 march, and Julian Bond; and Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was shot and killed last year. Tony Bennett performed, and actor/activist Danny Glover was among those attending. Jesse Jackson, who was at the Memphis hotel when King was assassinated in 1968, was seen making the media rounds.

The number of signs and shirts using the death of Travon Martin was almost overwhelming, especially on young children. Signs bearing his likeness in a hoodie were seen on signs and T-shirts, as were signs pushing the “Support Trayvon’s Law” to repeal stand-your-ground gun measures.

But Martin wasn’t the only liberal cause supported by the huge crowd, which extended to the World War II Memorial. Wall Street, sex trafficking, gay marriage, unions and job creation, and solitary confinement by police just some of the causes promoted by the groups who attended.

After the speeches, a procession filed past the Lincoln Memorial to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, then east to the Washington Monument. The route reversed the 1963 procession.

A ceremony featuring President Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter was scheduled on the actual anniversary (August 28) of King’s speech.