“I knew I had been at an important event, and that the racial needle had moved in my direction.”-Julian Bond on reflection of 50 years ago at The March onWashington.
“The march, now celebrated largely because of the dramatic speech made by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was more contentious than most recall. The organization I worked for then, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was one of the march’s sponsors; SNCC’s Chairman, John Lewis, now a Georgia congressman, and the surviving presenter of the march, was scheduled to give a speech that was censored by the Kennedy administration. The administration, reflecting the racist paranoia of the times and anxious at the prospect of thousands of black people descending on the Capitol, took extraordinary steps to neuter the march. They canceled elective surgery in Washington,evacuated 350 inmates from Washington’s jails to make room for their replacements, expected to be detained in the march mayhem, and placed city police on 18-hour shifts. They put judges on round-the-clock standby to handle the many anticipated arrests (there were four), closed government offices, banned liquor sales, and sent 150 FBI agents to mingle in the crowds. In the eventuality of militants rushing the speakers’ platform, they planned to cut off the loudspeakers at the Lincoln Memorial and replace the broadcast with a Mahalia Jackson recording. There were unintended benefits from the administration’s fears. Washington’s police cars were integratedfor the first time, as white and black officers rode together. Additionally, Attorney General Robert Kennedy forbade the use of police dogs, fearing they would summon up ugly memories of the Birmingham protests just weeks earlier.”
We must remember this peaceful act of dissidence and continue to move forward educating our citizens about the struggles that have been hard fought and hard won… and the march continues.
“If we accept and acquiesce in the face of discrimination, we accept the responsibility ourselves and allow those responsible to salve their conscience by believing that they have our acceptance and concurrence. We should, therefore, protest openly everything…that smacks of discrimination or slander.” –Mary McLeod Bethune