Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which sparked the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was also the site of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech which captured the hearts of all those gathered. To celebrate the March on Washington 50 years later, events are taking place today around Washington D.C., including an event on the National Mall featuring speeches by former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, as well as current President Barack Obama. You can watch a livestream video online of the events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington in D.C. as well as the speeches by Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama below starting at 3 p.m. The video livestream will also show services held throughout Washington D.C. commemorating the March on Washington and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”. You can watch the video live for free below.
Civil Rights leaders A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin were the initial organizers for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 1963 was a year in which the racial tensions and the struggles for the Civil Rights Movement were at an all time high, and served a symbolic purpose of being the hundred year anniversary of Abraham Lincoln signing the Declaration of Independence. The purpose of the march was to highlight the economic inequality suffered by blacks, as civil rights leaders believed that to be the root of other social injustices. Leading up to the event, the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership was formed as an umbrella group of a number of civil rights organizations and leaders. This included: Randolph who was chosen to head up the march, James Farmer,president of the Congress of Racial Equality; John Lewis,chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Martin Luther King, Jr. , president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Roy Wilkins, president of the NAACP; and Whitney Young, president of the National Urban League.The cities of Chicago and New York designated the date of the March, August 28th as “Freedom Day” so that workers would have the day off to travel to Washington and participate. There, 200,000 to 300,000 people marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial in solidarity.
At the Lincoln Memorial, a number of speakers stood to address the hundreds of thousands gathered. Roy Wilkins lead a moment of silence for W.E.B Dubois, who had passed away the night before in Ghana. John Lewis gave a controversial speech condemning the Kennedy administration for not doing enough to protect blacks from the on-going violence in the Deep South. A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin read off a list of demands the marchers had for Washington. And of course, Martin Luther King Jr. gave a stirring oration in which he spoke of the struggles African-Americans had faced up to that point, and called for and end to discrimination and a rise of universal freedom and equality in America.
Today’s 50th anniversary celebration is expected to draw crowded in the hundreds of thousands, including a large number of individuals who were present for the original March on Washington. President Obama’s speech is expected to emphasize the importance of voting rights in continuing the dream of Martin Luther King.