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Last Updated: Feb 27, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Unit 1: Achieving Civil Rights Print Page

The March on Washington

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a political rally, organized by several civil rights and religious groups, which took place on August 28, 1963. The event focused on the social and political challenges facing African Americans across the country. More than 200,000 black and white Americans gathered in Washington, D.C. to support the right of black Americans to political and economic equality and shared a day of song, speeches, and prayer. Martin Luther King Jr. closed the historic march by calling for racial justice and equality in his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.”



Where did they actually march?


King's "Letter From Birmingham Jail"

On April 16, 1963, King sent “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” in response to criticism from his fellow clergymen. They thought of King as an “outsider” and believed his efforts in Birmingham to promote justice were “unwise and untimely.” King disagreed wholeheartedly. He wrote, “I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” King went on further to defend nonviolent campaigning: “Why direct action? Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?...Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. For King, the injustice against colored people was  “Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed...before it can be cured.” The letter is famous for expressing Martin Luther King Jr.’s view on the state of the Civil Rights Movement as well as for representing the prime example for a well-written argument.

Do you think it easier to violently or nonviolently protest?

Why was nonviolent campaigning effective?




A Change is Gonna Come - Sam Cooke



Video #1: Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech"
Why do you think this speech is so powerful?

Video #2: President Obama's Speech at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington
Do you hear echos of MLK's speach in Obama's words?
 Why do you think it is important that we celebrated the 50th Anniversary?


Point of View: Then and Now


March on Washington Quiz #1

Approximately how many people participated in the March on Washington?


March on Washington Quiz #2

How many years ago did the March on Washington take place?


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