Key Moments in the Fight for Civil Rights

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August, 1963 – The March on Washington

Soon after the events in Birmingham, civil rights leaders announce plans for a mass march in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate for jobs and freedom. Attorney general Robert Kennedy, fearing more violence, is opposed to the plan. But long-time labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, who first proposed such a march during Franklin Roosevelt’s administration in 1941, and Bayard Rustin, organizer of the march’s complex logistics, press ahead.

On August 28, more than 200,000 people gather in peace and unity on the National Mall. Behind the scenes, SNCC leader John Lewis’ speech causes conflict for its harsh words against the Kennedy administration and the nation’s slowness to correct injustices. Persuaded by the 75-year-old Randolph to tone down the rhetoric, Lewis delivers an amended speech and few know of the controversy. The speech that will go down in the history books, however, is the one delivered by Martin Luther King as he stands before the Lincoln Memorial. “I have a dream,” he declares, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character…”

Much of this text is excerpted, with permission, from the website for the American Experience series Eyes on the Prize. Read more about these events and others on that site.

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  • jaime garfield

    A good book to read is Bitter Fruit .heavy and beautiful

  • Kansas Proud

    Sadly, this historic landmark has been allowed to deteriorate to the point it will cost millions to restore to a useable condition and will most likely be torn down due to its dilapidated condition. Such an unfortunate end to this landmark building’s role as a catalyst for equal and integrated educational opportunities for all.

  • Kansas Proud

    “this historic landmark” being Sumner Elementary in Topeka, KS.

  • Anonymous

    Sadly the fake, foundation funded left censors the involvement of one Lee Harvey Oswald– look I said one– in voter registration in a Northern Louisiana town during the year of our lord, 1963. Just one more adventure for Mr. Ubiquity.

  • Elliott Lauderdale

    Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth was instrumental in Project C and was recognized for the same by the re-naming the airport.

  • Anonymous

    Racism is sort of a mental illness where people choose a multiple of single group of people and decide that they are inferior. This is done in a desperate attempt to elevate themselves. It does not work. Instead it makes the one imbued with hate all the more despicable. It is a crying shame that people get away with this behavior and a national disgrace that these kind of hate mongers can effectively hold others back from living their full potential.

  • David Appleby

    Let’s give the desegregation of schools in Hoxie, Arkansas in 1955, and the battle that followed, its due place in this history. Little Rock is important but it was the outcome of what happened earlier in Hoxie.

  • Kevin M

    The conversation regarding race should be a personal conversation; one can not change a legacy of race hate through the medium of television or public conversation. The raciest can rise to the challenge by taking a long and hard look at the struggles of their ancestors living in a class based society before deciding to come to this country. They will find the same predjudice and hatreds they suffered in their old country now being acted out in America. sit down and have the convocation with yourself.

  • Jane

    I recommend reading, “The Last War” on Racism, Spirituality and the Future of Civilization by M.L. Perry. The book shows how racism developed, why society became despiritualized, and what happened to our sense of oneness. Professor Perry uses the analogy of an archeological did to survey the historical roots of racism and the despiritualization of society, century by century, back from the modern day to their primitive, prehistoric past.

    A magnificent read that will help to illuminate and heal all concerned with the sickness of racism.

  • konnie

    I would include Bobby Kennedy’s walk thru was one of the moments that shocked white America and embarrassed the country. apparently we need another expose’. allowing the kochroaches and the polks to blind the public and blame poverty on the poor needs to be a rallying cry once again.

  • Anonymous

    To echo this great presidents words, We do not have a rich or poor problem. We
    have an American problem.

  • Anonymous

    Kansas has not come very far!