Fifty years ago today, the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place in Washington, D.C. Although perhaps most widely remembered as the venue where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, the event is also recognized as a significant turning point in the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
Several civil rights organizations worked together for more than a year to organize the event. Then, on August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 men, women, and children gathered at the Washington Monument and then peacefully marched to the Lincoln Memorial, holding signs demanding an end to discrimination in many forms, including segregation, unequal pay, and restrictions on voting rights.
At the Lincoln Memorial, in addition to Dr. King’s famous address, many other civil rights leaders spoke, prominent musicians performed, and Hollywood celebrities attended to add their support. Ultimately, however, it was the presence of hundreds of thousands of ordinary people gathering peacefully for change that proved impossible to ignore. The March on Washington provided the needed impetus for the Ratification of the 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
There are many wonderful classroom resources to help teachers and students celebrate this important day in history. PBS has provided a variety of great lesson plans here, including a mathematics lesson and a lesson appropriate for students with learning disabilities.
You can access an audio recording of the “I Have a Dream” speech here through the University of California at Berkeley. The power of Dr. King’s oratory cannot be overstated, so, teachers, if you only have a short amount of time, consider playing an excerpt of this amazing speech for your students.