- Discuss leading participants of the March on Washington, suggesting march participants such as Bayard Ruskin or Harry Belafonte, or members of the “Big Six” as topics for biographical book reports. Members of the Big Six are more fully addressed in question one in the Questions tab.
- Discuss where the March on Washington took place. The significance of the Lincoln Memorial is more fully addressed in question two in the Questions tab.
- Discuss the First Amendment, and how it guarantees the freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government for redress of grievances.
- Discuss what grievances—real-world issues—the March on Washington was meant to confront, and how these issues persist today. The two major issues (civil and economic rights) are addressed in question three in the Questions tab.
- Students may want to consider how different marginalized groups work to assert their civil and economic rights: the poor, Native Americans, women, Latinos, the LGBT community, the disabled, etc.
- Discuss the concept of public space. Students may want to review the significance of the Lincoln Memorial explored in question two.
- Identify some public spaces in your community. Examples of public spaces and how they are used are listed in question four of the Questions tab.
Myth: The March on Washington united the civil rights community.The March on Washington was remarkable for bringing together very disparate elements of the civil rights movement, but many other civil rights activists did not support the march at all. The most famous of these dissenters was probably Malcolm X, a leader in the Nation of Islam, who derided the March on Washington as a “Farce on Washington.” Malcolm X and other civil rights leaders thought the placid tone and participation of non-African Americans reduced the impact of the event. Other critics of the march noted the absence of any female speakers at the event.
Myth: The March on Washington was apolitical.The March on Washington had specific, entirely political goals. Marchers sought legal guarantees of civil, economic, and voting rights. Many marchers supported a civil rights bill that had been introduced (but not yet passed) by the House of Representatives just months earlier. Other marchers thought this bill was not strong enough, and wanted to lobby Congress to ensure African Americans had fair access to jobs, public facilities, police protection, housing, and voting rights. In fact, leaders of the march were actually late for its start because they were meeting with members of Congress.
Myth: All participants in the March on Washington were African Americans from the South.An overwhelming number of participants in the March on Washington were African American men and women—unofficial estimates put the number as high as 80 percent. Although many arrived from the South, including nearby Virginia, most probably came from urban areas such as New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. (On the morning of August 28, one radio station reported buses were pouring in from Baltimore at a rate of 100 per hour.) Thousands of white, Asian, Latino, and Native American marchers also participated.
Myth: The March on Washington was a march to Washington.The civil rights movement is often associated with marches, most notably the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches in Alabama. However, the March on Washington was organized as an enormous meeting—not a journey—with people gathering in the Washington, D.C., area from all over the country. Bayard Rustin expertly managed the march’s complex logistics—involving thousands of buses, trains, planes, and cars.
Myth: Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the March on Washington.The march was planned and organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, experienced and exemplary leaders in the civil rights community.
- Randolph was president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first major labor organization led by African Americans. He was also vice-president of the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions (including the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters) in the U.S.
- Rustin was perhaps one of the most skilled civil rights activists at the march. During World War II, he worked to protect the property of Japanese Americans detained in internment camps and successfully met with President Roosevelt to help desegregate the armed services. Rustin was also the chief adviser to King on the theories and practices of non-violent protest.
set of fundamental freedoms guaranteed to all individuals, such as participation in the political system, ability to own property, and due process and equal protection under the law.
(~1954-1968) process to establish equal rights for all people in the United States, focusing on the rights of African Americans.
to get rid of or cause to disappear.
having to do with money.
well-spoken and expressive.
(1791) update to the U.S. Constitution prohibiting government from interfering with freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government.
(March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom) demonstration supporting economic and civil rights for all Americans, held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963, and concluding with Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
national park composed largely of grassy lawns, stretching roughly between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.