September 2013

Celebrating the March on Washington’s 50th Anniversary

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on WashingtonDr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, spoke in front of a quarter of a million people at the March on Washington.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. This August, tens of thousands of people came back to the same spot to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech and the March on Washington.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was held on August 28, 1963. The march brought 250,000 people from across the United States to the nation’s capital. The marchers called on the government to give African Americans equal rights and equal access to jobs. Dr. King was the final speaker at the march.

African Americans have made progress since 1963 in getting better jobs. They also have more protection of their civil rights. Speakers at the 2013 anniversary march reflected on African Americans’ gains. They also urged young people to continue the fight for full economic equality and social justice.

Speakers named three areas that they believe need correction: the gap between rich and poor, efforts to restrict voters’ access to the polls, and cases of discrimination in the criminal justice system. Some criticized the recent ruling from the Supreme Court that struck down a key part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Martin Luther King III, the son of Dr. King, said that more work needs to be done to achieve his father’s vision of a country free of racial prejudice.

Today’s activists hope to bring about as much progress as civil rights workers did a half-century ago. They are taking up the cause of justice and equality with new tools. They use the Internet and social media to spread their message. They register student voters electronically and also file online petitions.

On August 28, the day that Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech a half-century ago, President Barack Obama gave his own speech from the Lincoln Memorial’s steps. He spoke about how Dr. King and the March on Washington continue to inspire. He said, “We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling procession of that day so long ago—no one can match King’s brilliance—but the same flame that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains.”

Image credit: ©Francis Miller/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images

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Question 1
Which speech did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., give at the March on Washington in 1963?

Question 2
Which anniversary of the March on Washington was celebrated in August 2013?

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