The footpath for the events on August 28, 1963 was laid by A. Philipp Randolph and thousands
of African Americans in 1941. The war effort for World War 2 was going full
force. The work in factories across American were going 24 hours a day and
African Americans were being denied opportunities to work in the factories. The
work in the factories were being paid for by federal money therefore under
federal laws . A. Phillip Randolph a leader in the Civil rights movement proposed
a March on Washington in 1941.
Randolph gathered over 100, 000 people to
have a March in Washington DC.
Randolph met with President Roosevelt to let him know of the March. President Roosevelt
decided to take action. Roosevelt felt having 100,000 black people march on Washington
DC was not in his best political interest. Roosevelt signed Executive
order 8802 on June 25, 1941. The order was called the Fair Employment Act. It
reaffirmed the policy of full participation in the Defense Program by all
persons regardless of race , creed or National Origin. This was only the second
executive order ever signed that pertain to blacks by any president . The first
was the Emancipation Proclamation.
With the signing the executive order , Randolph stopped plans for a March on Washington
but he never gave up on the idea. In the early 1960’s President Kennedy had
done very little for civil rights . African Americans were getting upset with
Kennedy for doing nothing to make their lives better. Late in 1962 King
suggested to President Kennedy to make a another Emancipation Proclamation
outlawing segregation. President Kennedy rejected the idea and went on vacation
President Kennedy invited over 800 Black leaders to the White House for a dinner and
dancing in February of 1963 .It was the largest group of African Americans in
the White House at one time since the White House was build in 1800. Kennedy
made sure magazines like ebony and Jet
covered the event . Many of the guest that night called it Colored folks night at the White House. The
white media was told very little about the event.
Kennedy was informed about the march but was against it. He needed something to ignite him to move. However the President was forced
made to take action because events of
Bull Conner and Martin Luther King in Alabama.
Power concedes nothing without demand. It never will said A.Phillip Randolph. Civil
right leaders believed that something would have to happen to make Kennedy act
on Civil Rights.
In the spring of 1963 two events changed Americans view on Civil Rights.The first was
the march in Birmingham in which Dr.King was arrested and he wrote “A letter from a Birmingham Jail. He wrote a
letter in response to criticism for ministers in Birmingham Alabama.
May 2,1963 Children of Birmingham Alabama marched on the city. Children from the age 6-18.
More than 3000 people were arrested.
At that time Bull Conner was in charge of the police and fire department in Birmingham.
Conner was a raciest of the highest order. He wanted to make a impression to
all black people of Birmingham that he was strongly against Civil rights in
America. He had dogs bite students and firemen hose down the students in the
street. Hundreds of news out lets from around the world filmed this turning
event in America. The imagines of what Americans saw on TV and newspapers
horrifying people across the nation.
People who had been sitting on the fence suddenly realized something had to be
done . Before the events in Birmingham a poll was taken asking Americans if
Civil rights was a important issue in America only four percent answered yes.
After the events in Birmingham 52% of Americans thought Civil rights .
had become a game changer. He alone helped the Civil rights movement more than
the President of the United States, a future Nobel prize winner , men and women
in the Civil rights who given their lives . when America saw a man have so much
dislike for a race it was time for change. Over 900 people were put in jail. The
amount for bail went from $300 per person to $2500. The Civil rights movement
did not have any money to pay for the bail of all the people .
In the late spring of 1963 Asa Philipp Randolph approached Bayard Rustin who was a close
advisor to Dr. King about a March on Washington DC in the late summer. Randolph
and Rustin had envisioned two days of
organized rallies combing the civil rights movement to the economic
difficulties to the working men and women in the country. Randolph and
Rustin wanted to have sit ins at the
offices of Senators and Congressmen. The two men approached to Dr. King with
As the Civil rights leaders were comtemplating their next move little did they know their
phones were wire tapped.
President Kennedy knew he had to do something. He had gotten word African Americans were
ready to march or riot in the streets of the nation. In the first six months of
1963 978 demonstrations took place in 109 cities Kennedy like many other
American could no longer straddle the fence .
On June 11,1963 President Kennedy made a speech to the nation about civil rights.
Kennedy knew once he made the speech his re-election was not going to be easy.
He said if he was going to lose re-election he was going down trying to help
people. He knew by making this speech he would lose votes in the south. He felt
he would lose every state in the south in the next election except Texas. On
November 22, 1963 Kennedy was killed in Texas trying to shore up his base in
The day after Kennedy’s Civil rights speech was given Medgar Evers was killed in
On July 2, 1963 The big six of the Civil Rights movement met at the Roosevelt hotel in
Manhattan , New York. The big six were
John Lewis. A. Phillip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, Whitney
Young and Martin Luther King. The big six and other civil rights leaders and
organizations started the planning of the March. Dr. King was asked to organize
the march. It was much to be done. Dr. King headquarters for the march was in
the house of his attorney . Dr. King needed a place where he was accessible but
away from a large amount people .
Dr. King and the other leaders made plans for the largest peaceful march in American
history. The march would attract over 200, 000 people. One of the many concerns
of the leaders was who would show up for the march. The March chartered 51 chartered buses and
many trains. They wanted to make sure more black were there than whites. Many
churches around the country with black large congregations came. Labor union
provide many people from all walks of life. Civil rights groups that took place
in the march included Congress of Racial Equality, NAACP, National Urban
League, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The march had people young
and old in the crowd. The march was all about perception.
The original idea was to have the march at the Washington Monument then walk to Capitol Hill. The leaders had
the march instead moved to the Lincoln Memorial. The police were happy for the
moved because they could control the crowd because the crowd would be surrounded
by water on three sides. The government was also preparing for the march in
case of trouble. Over 5,900 D.C. policemen were put on duty. Nearly 15000 soldiers were
standing by. Alcohol was banned from being sold. Leave for hospital personnel
and long distance operators was
cancelled .Government lawyers were on duty to prepare documents authorizing
military action. Press coverage was largest of any political event in American
history . The government had control the sound system. If any of the Civil
rights leaders said anything during their speeches that the government took
offence to the government would turn off the sound system. President Kennedy
would not meet with marchers until the march was over to make sure the leaders
would not make any demands on him.
Why were people descending into Washington DC? Redlining covenants, which forbade white
selling houses to blacks in curtain neighborhoods, separate bathrooms, separate
restaurant entrances .Not being
able to sit with whites in movies theaters or concerts. Blacks could not serve
One of the biggest questions of the leaders who would speak last. The final decision was
made by Asa. Philipp Randolph. He decided Dr. King should speak last. After all
who would want to speak after Dr.King.
Dr. King met with leaders of the march in the lobby of the Willard hotel the evening before
the march. Dr.King asked for input from the group gathered . It was suggested
he should preach a sermon, stick to the facts or make it a political speech.
The meeting took six hours. Dr. King lawyer Clarence Jones took notes and after
sometime he presented a summary of what speech should be. The reaction was not
positive. Dr. King adjoured the meeting for the night. Dr.King would work on
the speech himself. The speech I have a dream was written partly from life
experiences. Dr. Kings lawyers was Clarence Jones . Mr. Jones drafted some the
speech. When bail money was need to free the 900 demonstrators from Birmingham
jail Mr. Jones was asked to be at a bank in New York city on a Saturday morning
. Mr. Jones met Nelson Rockefeller and was given $100,000. Mr. Jones was made
to sign a promissory note. He told Mr. Rockefeller he personally could not pay
the money back nor could the civil rights movement . Rockefellers lawyer said
it was to make the transfer legal. A few days later a message delivered a
promissory document to with the word paid written across the top.
The next day
Dr. King took the podium. Dr . King read the first seven paragraphs of the
speech exactly what he had written out.
speech he said “In a sense we have come to the nation’s capital to cash a
check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the
constitution and Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory
note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promised to all
men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights
of life , liberty and pursuit of happiness.
On the podium was Mahalia Jackson said tell them about the dream. Dr. King told the
world about his dream. We all have either heard or read his speech.
One day perhaps we can live out his dream