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| March On Washington - 1963
|Posted Thursday, August 22, 2013
Filed under Commentary
|This entry was posted Thursday, August 22, 2013; edited Saturday, August 24, 2013 - filed under Keeba’s Commentary.
To post a comment, click here. (posted comments)
|Keeba Smith is a published writer and desired screenplay artist. She is the author of “Shades of Bright Pale” and many other
unacquainted writings. Please visit www.Keeba.org to find out more about Keeba Smith, read additional critiques and her
unpublished autobiography, “Spirit in the Dark.”
|While I think about the upcoming "March on Washington" this coming Saturday, August 24,
2013 in Washington DC, I consider the first March on Wednesday, August 28, 1963.
Blues singer, songwriter and guitarist, Lee Conley Bradley better known as "Big Bill Broonzy"
wrote a song titled, "Black, Brown and White" about how Whites treated others. From a White
point of view, he sang,
"If you're white, you're alright, If you're brown, stick around, But if you're black, get back If
you're black, get back."
Although the song was written more than 25 before, in 1963, people were still experiencing the
sting and how terribly true it was. That feeling of injustice and inequality brought them there
that day along with hundreds of thousands of others. They wanted to end the days of
I consider their time; dedication and passion put into a progression of over 200,000 people in
unison. They had only hoped to reach 100,000.
I cannot help but consider the money it must have cost to put on such a March, as the sponsors
and resources they have today were not available in 1963. But through their sale of souvenirs,
concert tickets and other events, as well as donations, they were able to pay for necessary
expenses. In addition, selling buttons for 25 cents, as well as receiving small cash donations
raised money for the upcoming March.
|I must consider the violent racism.
At that time, there was a huge racial divide, where Blacks were killed just for being Black. When the kkk violated the
rights of Blacks, the police would not investigate, as many times they were part of the organization. Blacks were not able
to protest or assemble peacefully, sit anywhere on a public bus, use the same public restrooms, date White women, drink
from the same drinking fountain and/or receive proper education.
Blacks were spit on, beaten, threatened and had their homes and churches bombed. And I can only imagine the fear they
must have felt and the intimidation they faced, but they were determined - truly - and passionate about their March on
|It took decisive organization.
I must consider what it took to organize such a March. What a time, work and dedication it must have been to coordinate
and then contact so many expected orators without the means of social media.
Yes, there was word-of-mouth, church announcements, radio and a plethora of signs and flyers, but it took more than just
that; it took heart and dedication to a much worthy and necessary cause.
The staff tackled the difficult logistics of transportation, publicity, and the marchers' health and safety. Attention to detail
was crucial, as the planners believed that anything other than a peaceful, well-organized demonstration would damage the
cause for which they would March.
Worthy who was in charge of the phone-bank and the
hundreds of calls she made. I consider her experience a
bag of mixed feelings. On the day of the March, she
viewed the mass crowd and said to herself, "I must have
talked to all of these people." However, through her
hard work and dedication, she was truly exhausted. "I’
m going to sit right there on the steps of the Memorial
and lean my head against this column," she said. "I’m
so tired. I’ve been working 24-hours for weeks". As
time passed, she was awakened when someone said,
"C'mon, let's go. It's over".
a widespread of people together for justice and equality.
the March. Blacks and Whites alike, but the terrible
beatings and near-death experiences Blacks endured, all to
attend a March for their rights - for equality.
|People traveled from far and wide.
Some travelling from the South were harassed and threatened.
I have to consider that some of the organizers and scheduled participants were unsure how many people would attend the
March. But no matter, what, the organizers had to make sure there were adequate transportation.
Mrs. Hazel Mangle Rivers, 43, traveled from Birmingham to attend the March and was taken aback by the courtesy of
the Whites in Washington.
"The people are lots better up here than they are down South. They treat you much nicer. Why, when I was out
there at the March a White man stepped on my foot, and he said, "Excuse me," and I said "Certainly!" That's the
first time that has ever happened to me. I believe that was the first time a White person has ever really been nice
It was reported that "about a quarter of the crowd was White" and some of them, who were large supporters of the
March, were ridiculed and targeted.
Among the attendees, were civil rights leaders, Hollywood celebrities and thousands of ordinary people who knew it was
time for change; regardless of race.
|There was opposition.
I have to consider not only the racial threats some of the travelers faced, but also that president Kennedy did not want the
March to take place in fear of a race riot. Additionally, he discouraged it in fear that it might make the legislature vote
against civil rights laws in reaction to a perceived threat. However, he supported the March when he realized that
nothing or no one would stop the organizers' determination.
Some civil rights activists perceived the March as "an inaccurate, sanitized pageant of racial harmony." Muslim minister
and human rights activist, Malcolm X deemed the March a "Farce on Washington," and members of the Nation of Islam
who attended the March were threatened to be suspended.
Because some assumed that the March would yield to violence, 5,000 police officers, National Guardsmen and Army
Reservists were on hand. However, no one was arrested and no violence ensued. The March was nonviolent - a
peaceful modest rally of over 200,000 people, eager for change.
Through contention and all the massive threats, they progressed and proceeded with determination for equality.
|There were powerful and memorable speeches.
Each expected speaker had their own agenda, but with the same cause in mind: fight racial barriers, and fight for racial
equality and justice. In addition, they also fought for transportation and public accommodations, fair housing and better
Speakers who traveled from various States, were:
Although I am sure each speaker gave remarkable speeches, Dr. King's 17-minute speech later became known as "I
have a Dream." As he was citing his prepared speech, he was diverted when gospel singer Mahalia Jackson shouted
behind him [saying], "Tell them about the dream, Martin!"
Dr. Martin Luther King was merely a young 34-year-old man with a vision and a dream to share.
Yes, it was [a] protest against racial inequality but it was a March on Washington ceremony for celebration; celebration
for the mass turnout, celebration to be heard; celebration to voice injustice and equality for ALL people.
|Original Caption: Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. [Leaders of the march (from right to left)
Mathew Ahmann; (seated with glasses) Cleveland Robinson; (beside Robinson is) A. Philip Randolph; (standing
behind the two chairs) Rabbi Joachim Prinz; (wearing a bow tie and standing beside Prinz is) Joseph Rauh, Jr.;
John Lewis & Floyd McKissick.]
|Although John Lewis' speech was not well known as Dr. King's, Lewis' fervent words cut deep, accusing the federal
government of conspiring to ignore inequality. The text of Lewis' speech was itself a battleground; some of the most
controversial words and phrases were removed, and the ending was reworked, at the insistence of other March leaders.
The text here is the version Lewis delivered.
We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers
are not here. They have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving starvation wages or no wages at all. In
good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration's civil rights bill. There's not one thing in the bill
that will protect our people from police brutality.
This bill will not protect young children and old women from police dogs and fire hoses, for engaging in peaceful
demonstrations. This bill will not protect the citizens in Danville, Virginia, who must live in constant fear in a police State.
This bill will not protect the hundreds of people who have been arrested on trumped-up charges. What about the three
young men in Americus, Georgia, who face the death penalty for engaging in peaceful protest? The voting section of this
bill will not help thousands of black citizens who want to vote. It will not help the citizens of Mississippi, of Alabama and
Georgia, who are qualified to vote but lack a sixth-grade education. "ONE MAN, ONE VOTE" is the African cry. It is
ours, too. It must be ours.
People have been forced to leave their homes because they dared to exercise their right to register to vote. What is there
in this bill to ensure the equality of a maid who earns $5 a week in the home of a family whose income is $100,000 a year?
For the first time in one hundred years, this nation is being awakened to the fact that segregation is evil and that it must be
destroyed in all forms. Your presence today proves that you have been aroused to the point of action. We are now
involved in a serious revolution. This nation is still a place of political leaders who build their careers on immoral
compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic and social exploitation. What political leader
here can stand up and say, "My party is the party of principles?" The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland.
The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party?
In some parts of the South, we work in the fields from sunup to sundown for $12 a week. In Albany, Georgia, nine of our
leaders have been indicted not by Dixiecrats but by the federal government for peaceful protest. But what did the federal
government do when Albany's deputy sheriff beat attorney C. B. King and left him half-dead? What did the federal
government do when local police officials kicked and assaulted the pregnant wife of Slater King, and she lost her baby?
It seems to me that the Albany indictment is part of a conspiracy on the part of the federal government and local
politicians in the interest of expediency.
The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery. The nonviolent
revolution is saying, "We will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been waiting for hundreds of years. We will
not wait for the President, the Justice Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands and
create a source of power, outside of any national structure, that could and would assure us a victory."
To those who have said, "Be patient and wait," we must say that "patience" is a dirty and nasty word. We cannot be
patient, we do not want to be free gradually. We want our freedom, and we want it now. We cannot depend on any
political party, for both the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of
We all recognize the fact that if any radical social, political and economic changes are to take place in our society, the
people - the masses, must bring them about. In the struggle, we must seek more than civil rights; we must work for the
community of love, peace and true brotherhood. Our minds, souls and hearts cannot rest until freedom and justice exists
for all people.
The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it into the courts.
Listen, Mr. Kennedy. Listen, Mr. Congressman. Listen, fellow citizens. The black masses are on the march for jobs
and freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won't be a "cooling-off" period.
We will not stop. If we do not get meaningful legislation out of this Congress, the time will come when we will not
confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the South, through the streets of Jackson, through the
streets of Danville, through the streets of Cambridge, through the streets of Birmingham. But we will march with the
spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity that we have shown here today.
By the force of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we shall splinter the desegregated South into a
thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of God and democracy.
We must say, "Wake up, America. Wake up! For we cannot stop, and we will not be patient."
|Reading his words gave me the chills, as it proves his determination and call to action. I am certain he upset some folks.
Sadly, though, his words were censored.
|Speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C. (August 28, 1963)
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation.
This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the
flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life
of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years
later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years
later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So, we
have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense, we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the
magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which
every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life,
liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned.
Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back
marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there
are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check - a check that
will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to
remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the
tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path
of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our
nation from the quicksand's of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the
Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of
freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to
blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will
be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will
continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold, which leads into the palace of
justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy
our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest
to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with
soul force. The marvelous new militancy, which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all
white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their
destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are
asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy
with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the Cities. We cannot be
satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long
as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we
are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh
from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of
persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue
to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos
of our northern Cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a
dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be
self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners
will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the State of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and
oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the State of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of
interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join
hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will
be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall
see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the
mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a
beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together,
to go to jail together, to standup for freedom together; knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet
land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true.
So, let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every State and every City, we
will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and
Catholics - will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God
Almighty, we are free at last!"
|I had to consider what I did not know.
Sadly, and VERY unfortunate, John Lewis was not allowed to include the following in his speech:
There's not one thing in the bill that will protect our people from police brutality. I want to know, which
side is the federal government on?... The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the
revolution out of the streets and put it into the courts. Listen, Mr. Kennedy. Listen, Mr. Congressman.
Listen, fellow citizens. The black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the
politicians that there won't be a "cooling-off" period. ...We will march through the South, through the
heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own scorched earth policy and burn Jim Crow
to the ground—nonviolently..."
W.E.B. Du Bois, co-founder of the NAACP, died the morning of the March, in Accra, Ghana. He was 95.
The March on Washington was held exactly eight years after the 1955 lynching of Emmitt Till.
the March on Washington. She was allowed only 142 words and
stated, "Black women "pledge that we will join hands … until we
leaders. The men marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, while the
women marched down Independence Avenue. (It was what they
did during that time; men were to be the leaders.)
to discuss the civil rights bill. (It was the first time Black African
American leaders had been invited to the White House since 1901,
when President Roosevelt dined with Booker T. Washington.)
originated the idea of the March. Operating out of a tiny office in
Harlem, Rustin and his staff had only two months to plan a
was 23. On August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington, he
gave one of the major speeches. Lewis said that the reason they
wore three-piece suits was that if they were arrested "they would
go to jail in style." Likewise, if they were killed.
determination. What an experience it must have been to witness
that most memorable day in history. What a time it must have
been in that era of undeserved inequality and racism, but it was
inevitable that they stood strong and determined.
|The March on Washington was life-changing and historic, and it widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act
as well as the Voting Rights Act.
|It is only my prayer that the upcoming [50th anniversary] March on Washington will produce even greater change.
|The significance of the March was to change and enforce the rights of every American. Ultimately, it changed SOME
people's hearts and minds and that was what was most important.
was a determination for change, and I believe it was well worth it.