Key Moments in the Fight for Civil Rights

  • submit to reddit

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.

  • submit to reddit