From The Telegraph:
The address that Martin Luther King delivered from the steps of Washington’s Lincoln Memorial on August 28 1963 is still known simply as the Dream Speech, after the “I have a dream” phrase that he repeated, with his preacher’s cadence, to paint his hopes for a future of racial equality.
…That warm August day, the crowds, perhaps a quarter of them white, poured into the nation’s capital by bus, train and car from across America, from the poorest cotton-share-cropping districts of the South and the slums of the North, to affluent enclaves of New England. The march also attracted a slew of celebrities, including Marlon Brando, Charlton Heston, Harry Belafonte, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. Some flew in despite being “advised” on the orders of FBI director J Edgar Hoover to withdraw support from the “Communist-organised” march. Many were nervous as they arrived, fearful of warnings that the protest would turn into a riot. There were dark predictions that white women would be raped, government buildings attacked, shops looted and burned. Instead, America witnessed a stunning and peaceful demonstration of racial unity, a defining moment in the civil rights movement. The year was the 100th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s abolition of slavery, with the Emancipation Proclamation that ordered the freeing of slaves in the Confederacy. A century later, protests were sweeping the same Southern states, against the Jim Crow laws that forced blacks to live as second-class citizens.
…In a landmark that not even the most ambitious dreamers in 1963 could have imagined, an African-American was elected president in 2008. Now into his second term, Barack Obama has a framed programme of the March on Washington on the wall of the Oval Office. The progress has been striking. But, as tens of thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial yesterday to mark the 50th anniversary of the march, the talk was as much about unfinished business as celebrating a momentous day. For one thing, the full name of the 1963 gathering was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a title that emphasised the organisers’ focus on economic as well as racial equality. For all the strides of the intervening half-century, the so-called “opportunity gap” between races remains stubbornly wide, with blacks almost twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. From the same steps where Dr King spoke, Mr Obama will address a “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony on Wednesday, alongside Bernice King, the clergywoman daughter of Dr King.