The Washington Post, not surprisingly, has a lot of coverage of this week’s anniversary, including tons of photos and video clips. (And an admission that the paper wasn’t so prescient at the time.)
As a lead-in, here’s Dan Balz on “The March on Washington’s unfinished agenda”:
In the way history can be conflated, the March on Washington has been reduced to a few vivid images. One is the size of the gathering, with photos showing a crowd flowing from the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and stretching the length of the Reflecting Pool and beyond. The other and most iconic by far is the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech, which continues to echo powerfully 50 years on.
But history plays tricks, for there was much more to the march than those sharply etched memories. For the Life magazine issue published right after the event, the editors chose neither King nor the crowd for the cover. That distinction went to two of the march’s principal organizers, labor leader A. Philip Randolph and civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin.
The peaceful march drew more than 200,000 people to Washington on a sweltering summer day. It is rightly remembered as one of the most uplifting moments of the civil rights movement, and as others have said, it is the most famous mass rally in U.S. history.
But as the nation prepares to commemorate the event, it is useful to recall its origins, ambitions and legacy and to remember which of the organizers’ objectives have been fulfilled and which have not…
Many of those who will be in Washington this week say the commemoration of the march should not be a celebration. “It’s very important not just to commemorate the march but to have us recognize that we’re 50 years away from that event and if we examine progress, it’s clearly a mixed blessing,” said Margaret Simms of the Urban Institute.
Robert Dallek, who has written histories of the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies, quoted one of his mentors, the late historian Richard Hofstadter, as saying that “America is the only country that believes it was born perfect and strives for improvement.” As far as the country has come in the 50 years since the March on Washington, much remains to be done — as it always has.
Also, from the Root, a fascinating interview with March participant Gloria Richardson, co-founder of the Cambridge Nonviolent Action Committee (plus a slide show on women Marchers).