By VICTORIA MITCHELL
“I have a dream that my four little 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.”Those powerful words are what changed our country. As Martin Luther King Jr., stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, during the March on Washington, in Washington D.C, on August 28, 1963, those are the words he spoke.
At eight o’clock on that Wednesday morning, there were only fifty people standing on the monument grounds. It looked as if the march would not be as big as planned. People from all over the nation arrived by plane, train, bus, car and even foot. By the end of the day there was about a quarter of a million people who attended the march. People of many races marched through the District of Columbia that day, even white people. It was said that a quarter of the people there, were white.
The March on Washington took a lot of thought and planning, it was huge. It is still known today as the biggest protest. Many organizations helped put the march together. Each organization had their own ideas and plan on what would happen that day. The “Big Six” were as follows: James Farmer, of the Congress of Racial Equality, also knows as CORE; Martin Luther King Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, also known as SCLC; John Lewis, of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, also known as SNCC; A. Phillip Randolph, of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters; Roy Wilkins, of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, also known as NAACP; and Whitney Young Jr., of the National Urban Legend. With all these people helping, even the president; John F. Kennedy, had doubts about the march. But once it was final, he was confident and even spoke at the march.
This event was filled with many things to do. With musical performances by Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and Josh White. There were also many speeches. Every one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders gave speeches. James Farmer was in person in Louisiana at the time and had his speech read by Floyd McKissick. There were also many other speakers. Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish religious leaders; and labor leader Walter Reuther. Among these speakers, there was one female, Josephine Baker. She introduced several “Negro Fighters for Freedom,” even Rosa Parks.
Out of all of these speeches, two of them really moved people. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech:
“Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This monumentous 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 their captivity.
But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of 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 languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.”
Also, John Lewis’s speech, The Militant:
“The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery. The non-violent 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 Independence.”
As these words are spoken, tears are rolling down cheeks in the audience. The United States is starting to make a change in the way people are treated.
The March on Washington has really, truly changed the United States of America. If you sit and think about it, over the past two hundred years, our country has gone from torturing African Americans, whipping them, killing them, making them serve for us, giving up their seats on the bus, so a white man could sit down, making two dollars an hour, when a white man with the same job makes more than twice as much and now, they’re just like us. It’s not right. I don’t understand how a human being could torture another like that just because they’re black. What the “Big Six” did had to take some major courage. They were imprisoned many times, but kept going, day after day, until the African Americans were finally free. “I have a dream”. Those words had to have a major impact on the people standing at the Lincoln Memorial that day. What would you do? If I was there, I would have realized that this was a start of a revolution. It’s a day that will never be forgotten, August 28, 1963, along with an amazing man that will always remain in the history of the United States. Martin Luther King Jr., Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, and everyone in the audience joining hands and singing to words to the old Negro spiritual:
“Free at last! Free At last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”