Skip to main content

March on Washington: Throngs mark 'I Have a Dream' anniversary

By Mariano Castillo, CNN
August 25, 2013 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd near the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. On the 50th anniversary of this historic civil rights event, we take a look back through rarely-seen color photographs from the day. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd near the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. On the 50th anniversary of this historic civil rights event, we take a look back through rarely-seen color photographs from the day.
HIDE CAPTION
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
Color photos from 1963 March on Washington
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Two of Martin Luther King Jr.'s children will speak at event
  • Obama, former presidents Clinton, Carter headline a second march Wednesday
  • March passes King Memorial
  • Al Sharpton: Marchers want action, not nostalgia

(CNN) -- Standing on the spot where 50 years earlier the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made "I have a dream" the clarion call of the civil rights movement, a broader call for equality rang out Saturday.

Thousands rallied at the National Mall to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic August 28, 1963, March on Washington.

Leaders from civil rights, religious and civic organizations paid tribute to those who fought and continue to fight for racial equality, but the slate of demands today has expanded to other hot-button issues.

Income inequality, discrimination based on sexual orientation and mistreatment of immigrants were all themes espoused by the dozens of speakers.

"I am a daughter of the civil rights movement, and as a daughter I am a beneficiary of all the good that resulted from the hard work, the sweat and tears, and the blood that was shed by the leaders and doers of that movement," Jennifer Jones Austin of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies told the crowd. "And as a daughter and a beneficiary, I am now the burden-bearer of this generation's civil rights movement."

Bernice King's difficult journey

That burden, she said, includes equal rights for gays and fights against poverty and gun violence.

Attorney General Eric Holder credited King's famous words for providing a foundation for the progress of the civil rights movement.

"Our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian-Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities and of countless others across this great country who still yearn for equality, opportunity and fair treatment," he said.

Many speakers invoked the killing of Trayvon Martin as an example of where they see a lack of justice for African-Americans.

Martin Luther King III, son of the civil rights icon, said his father's vision was a nation without racial discrimination. "But sadly, the tears of Trayvon Martin's mother and father reminds us that far too frequently, the color of one's skin remains a license to profile."

In 1963, "we could not have imagined we'd be here 50 years later with a black president and a black attorney general, but that's a measure of how far we have come," civil rights activist Julian Bond said. "But still, we march."

August 28, 1963, was one of the most important days for the civil rights movement. Over 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Magnum photographer Leonard Freed (1929-2006) was there documenting that historic day. August 28, 1963, was one of the most important days for the civil rights movement. Over 200,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Magnum photographer Leonard Freed (1929-2006) was there documenting that historic day.
Leonard Freed's March on Washington
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
Photos: Leonard Freed\'s March on Washington Photos: Leonard Freed's March on Washington
50 years after MLK's freedom call

Minorities have never wished their way to freedom, he said, but have worked their way up, and must continue to do so.

The only class MLK taught

"While I'm elated that we've come today to march on Washington, we must not only march on Washington. We must stand for a genuine living wage and jobs. We must stand to end the 'stand your ground' laws. We must stand against stop-and-frisk, must must stand against voter suppression," Bishop Darin Moore of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church said.

Another theme repeated throughout the event was outrage at the Supreme Court decision that threw out a key part of the Voting Rights Act.

The court in June invalidated the formula used to determine which states or local jurisdictions -- mostly in the South -- could remain under special federal oversight, requiring approval from Washington before they can change voting procedures.

That blunted much of the government's enforcement power in states and localities with a history of discrimination at the polls.

"We didn't forget the price they paid," the Rev. Al Sharpton said, referring to those on the front lines of the civil rights movement. "We've fought too hard, our parents shed too much blood, there was too many nights in jail, for you to take our vote from us now."

Sharpton said organized protests to demand a reinstatement of the provisions are forthcoming.

5 faces of the March on Washington

Kathleen Johnson and Jean McRae were at the first March on Washington 50 years ago, and as the crowd grew on Saturday, they reflected on the span in between.

"It was a wonderful experience (in 1963) because prior to that there were many things going on in the United States that were not right," Johnson said.

The injustices that existed in 1963 convinced Johnson and her family and friends to attend the march.

"We had to be there. We had to be a part of it," she said.

The fight for equality that the original march embodied remains a work in progress, McRae said, which makes Saturday's event so important.

"We need this, especially now," she said.

Both women wore buttons from the march in 1963.

Saturday's event is the first of two rallies to mark the anniversary.

President Barack Obama headlines another event Wednesday, the exact anniversary of the March on Washington, where MLK delivered the now-famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

The Wednesday event will include a longer march through Washington and speeches by Obama and former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

At the March on Washington: The anger, fear, love and hope

CNN's Chris Lawrence and journalist David Simpson contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Fifty years ago 250,000 people converged on the National Mall for a March on Washington. It became the beginning of a new era.
August 28, 2013 -- Updated 1750 GMT (0150 HKT)
How the speech was crafted is just one of several interesting facts about what is one of the most important moments in the 20th century.
August 28, 2013 -- Updated 1858 GMT (0258 HKT)
The five decades from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Dream" to Trayvon Martin's death have been the most tumultuous in the country's racial history.
August 23, 2013 -- Updated 1947 GMT (0347 HKT)
It was Martin Luther King, Jr.'s most famous speech. But one photographer trained his camera toward the crowd, instead.
August 27, 2013 -- Updated 1638 GMT (0038 HKT)
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as Public Enemy No. 1? Well, 50 years ago, that was nearly true.
August 28, 2013 -- Updated 1407 GMT (2207 HKT)
Gay pioneer Jack Nichols stated, "We had marched with Martin Luther King, and from that time on, we'd always had our dream about a (gay) march of similar proportions."
August 25, 2013 -- Updated 1441 GMT (2241 HKT)
Martin Luther King Jr. taught exactly one class his entire life. It was in 1962 in Atlanta -- a year before he would give his "I Have a Dream" speech in the nation's capital.
What are your everyday experiences with racism?Share your story with CNN's iReport.
August 26, 2013 -- Updated 1507 GMT (2307 HKT)
"Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm free at last."
August 27, 2013 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
The goal was to build pressure on Congress to move forward with the civil rights bill that President Kennedy had proposed.
August 23, 2013 -- Updated 1624 GMT (0024 HKT)
Patricia Worthy worked the phones to organize the March on Washington. But when the day came, she couldn't keep her eyes open.
August 25, 2013 -- Updated 1435 GMT (2235 HKT)
There is a secret about Bernice King that not everyone close to her wants you to know.
August 22, 2013 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
Bayard Rustin is the most important leader of the civil rights movement you probably have never heard of. Why? Because he was unabashedly gay, writes LZ Granderson.
August 18, 2013 -- Updated 1502 GMT (2302 HKT)
A Tennessee man finds a long lost interview with Martin Luther King, Jr. in an attic in 2012.
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
There is a secret sauce for the weak to beat the strong, say those who have studied and participated in successful nonviolent social movements.
September 1, 2013 -- Updated 2248 GMT (0648 HKT)
The summer of 1963 was hot. I'm not referring to the weather: Young black activists were beginning to question their commitment to nonviolent tactics.
August 26, 2013 -- Updated 0124 GMT (0924 HKT)
Today they are lawmakers, professors and grandparents. But 50 years ago, they were the young faces of the civil rights movement.
ADVERTISEMENT