After the march, which ended at the Lincoln Memorial, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic 11-minute “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps.
This march was initiated by the vice president of the AFL-CIO, A. Philip Randolph. Other groups supported the march, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the NAACP, the National Urban League and other civil rights organizations. Yet the march was not totally supported by all black civil rights groups. Civil rights leader and minister of the Nation of Islam, Malcolm X, reportedly called it the “farce on Washington”.
At the time, black unemployment rates were double that of whites and no major civil rights reform had been achieved to date.
Hundreds of television news correspondents reported on the event. Liquor sales were banned in the city and 6,000 police were assigned to the event. Yet the event was one of the most peaceful in Washington’s history.
A group called “sandwich volunteers” made up lunches for attendees to be sold for 50¢. Besides civic leaders, several of the Hollywood crowd were also in attendance or spoke, including Charlton Heston, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lena Horns and Marlin Brando. It’s also often forgotten that Bob Dylan and Joan Baez also sang at the rally.
The schedule of events for the day is available here, but does not mention all of the speakers.
Today, the speech is considered King’s most memorable and one of most powerful speeches on civil rights in the nation’s history. It helped led to the passage of new civil rights legislation introduced by the Kennedy administration, just two months later by Congress.
You can stand at the exact location where Dr. King delivered his famous speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, as the granite step has been chiseled with the details.
It’s located on the second landing from the top of the memorial, at the center of the landing.
Free 45-minute Ranger led talks about the qualities made Lincoln great occur every Tuesday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., through the end of November.
Tours – Cell phone tours with recorded Ranger talks are available by calling 202-747-3420 (cell phone airtime charges may apply).
Tickets – Admission is free.
Nearest Metro Subway Station – Foggy Bottom – Blue or Yellow line, then a ¾-mile walk.
Parking – Metered street parking is available within a couple block of the memorial, but is at time limited, especially on weekends.
Images – Dr. King delivering his speech – National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the U.S. Information Agency; Record Group 306; National Archives – Still Picture Branch, College Park, MD (Local Identifier: NWDNS-306-SSM-4D(107)8), View of the reflecting pool – National Archives – Warren Leffler, photographer, Lincoln memorial steps – personal collection – © 2008 – Jon Rochetti