Immigration Limits and the March on Washington By: Sean Senger

Origins and Goal

The March on Washington came about on August 28, 1963 when people in the Civil Rights Movement attempted a peaceful march on the Capitol building in Washington, DC. It was organized by Bayard Rustin and Cleveland Robinson in the hopes that the marchers could peacefully convince the Court to desegregate America. ...Naturally, it didn't quite work.

Group Demographics, Important People and their Impact

Most of the marchers were African Americans, although there were many white. Many important people appeared at the first march, including Martin Luther King Jr, who delivered his incredibly famous "I Have a Dream" speech; Rosa Parks was part of the march's Tribute to Women, although she was moved off stage to let MLKJ speak; and Ray Lewis, the president of the NAACP, announced the death of a former Communist W. E. B. Du Bois, after realizing that it would be bad for the image of the march if Randolph, also a former Communist, announced it instead. Unfortunately, the only women speakers were in the short Tribute to Women, but MLKJ's speech gave a huge boost to the march's popularity. John Lewis, the chairman of the SNCC, gave a fairly controversial speech even with some parts censored out, speaking about how he thought Kennedy's bill was too little, too late before it was censored and changed to say, "it is true that we support the administration's Civil Rights Bill. We support it with great reservation, however" (Jones).

Obstacles and How They Were Overcome

There were multiple obstacles in the way of the march, such as the sound equipment being sabotaged, the fear of an attack on the vehicles bringing the protestors to Washington, various threats, and more. The $111,450 sound system in today's money was pushed for by Rustin, maintaining that they can't convince people who can't hear them. The sound system was bought, but it was broken the day before the march. However, it was fixed by the Army Signal Corps in time. The protestors riding buses to the march were very afraid of an attack to destroy the buses. One protestor said, "Contrary to the mythology, the early moments of the March—getting there—was no picnic. People were afraid. We didn't know what we would meet. There was no precedent. Sitting across from me was a black preacher with a white collar. He was an AME preacher. We talked. Every now and then, people on the bus sang 'Oh Freedom' and 'We Shall Overcome,' but for the most part there wasn't a whole bunch of singing. We were secretly praying that nothing violent happened" (Bass). There were multiple threats made of killing specific people, or of bombing the planes and buses moving people to Washington. One man even called the FBI to tell them he would put a hole between King's eyes, five planes were grounded from bomb threats, and The Los Angeles Times was threatened to be bombed unless it published an article calling the President a "n*****-lover".

Outcome and Lasting Impact

The march was arguably a success, with Congress more seriously considering the yet-to-be Civil Rights Act. However, many people saw the march as ineffectual and an allowance made by the whites. One marcher commented, "It's like St. Patrick's Day. I came out of respect for what my people are doing, not because I believe it will do any good. I thought it would do some good in the beginning. But when the march started to get all the official approval from Mastah Kennedy, Mastah Wagner, Mastah Spellman, and they started setting limits on how we had to march peacefully, I knew that the march was going to be a mockery, that they were giving us something again" (Euchner). The media singled out MLKJ's "I Have a Dream" speech as the march's highlight and focused mostly on it and the following legislative successes of 1964 and 1965. There have been 5-year anniversary marches since, and on the 2013 50th anniversary march, Obama granted the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to 16 people, including Rustin; and the post office created a commemorative stamp.

Connected Current Inequality and its Significance

Immigration limits are currently a big problem. These limits are laws that only allow a certain amount of people from each country in a given interval. The original march inspired these people to participate in the March for America on March 21, 2010; a march for immigration reform. Over 200,000 people participated, and the President told the crowd he would push for immigration reform. ...Unfortunately, it didn't quite work, as the president had let people down by not completing reform before his time in office ended.

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