The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, speaks to thousands during his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. (AP Photo/File)
Dear Commons Community,
Sixty years ago the March on Washington which is still considered one of the greatest and most consequential racial justice demonstrations in U.S. history, will be commemorated today with a second March on Washington.
The original nonviolent protest, which attracted as many as 250,000 to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, helped till the ground for passage of federal civil rights and voting rights legislation in the next few years. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, spoke to the gathering during his “I Have a Dream” speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial
But in the decades that followed, the civil rights gains feeding the freedom high felt by Andrew Young and others came under increasing threat. A close adviser to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Young went on to become a congressman, a U.N. ambassador and Atlanta’s mayor. He sees clear progress from the time when Black Americans largely had no guarantee of equal rights under the law. But he hasn’t ignored the setbacks.
“We take two steps forward, and they make us take one step back,” Young told The Associated Press in an interview at the offices of his Atlanta-based foundation.
“It’s a slow process that depends on the politics of the nation.” At 91 years old, an undeterred Young will gather again with Black civil rights leaders and a multiracial, interfaith coalition of allies today, to mark 60 years since the first March
The organizers of this year’s commemoration don’t see this as an occasion for kumbaya — not in the face of eroded voting rights nationwide, after the recent striking down of affirmative action in college admissions and abortion rights by the Supreme Court, and amid growing threats of political violence and hatred against people of color, Jews and the LGBTQ community.
Young said he thinks it unwise for him to predict how successful this year’s March on Washington will be. But his Christian faith tells him to not place limits on what is possible.
“If there is a place where we can learn to live together as brothers and sisters, rather than perish together as fools, it’s the United States of America,” he said.