Meet the 1963 March on Washington Organizers

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A.Philip Randolph Bayard Rustin Whitney Young Martin Luther King, Jr. Roy Wilkins James Farmer John Lewis Walter Reuther Eugene Carson Blake Mathew Ahmann Jachim Prinz

Whitney Young
Executive Director, National Urban League

Whitney Young appears on the CBS public affairs program Newsmakers, August 18, 1963. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

At the time of the March and throughout the 1960s, Whitney Young was the head of the National Urban League, the world’s largest civil rights organization. Elected in 1961, Young was a charismatic civil rights leader effective in bridging the gap between white political and business leaders and black activists. During his decade-long tenure, the organization grew from 60 to 98 chapters and largely shifted its focus from black middle-class concerns to those of the urban poor. He also fought for better treatment of black members of the armed forces and employment for veterans. He served as a consultant on racial issues to both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.

Young was approached by A. Philip Randolph early on in the planning stages of the March; his participation was credited as garnering the support of other March leaders, including Roy Wilkins and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He also proved to be a vital fundraiser for the event.

He gave an impassioned speech at the March, stressing the importance of every participant continuing the fight after the event was over: “…This march must go beyond this historic moment. For the true test of the rededication and the commitment which should flow from this meeting will be in recognition that however impressed or however incensed our congressional representatives are by this demonstration, they will not act because of it alone. We must support the strong. We must give courage to the timid. We must remind the indifferent, and we must warn the opposed. Civil rights, which are God given and constitutionally guaranteed, are not negotiable in 1963.”

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