why they marched


Fifty years ago today, 250,000 people joined the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dissent‘s Tom Kahn worked closely with veteran socialist and civil rights activist Bayard Rustin to organize the March. In “The Power of the March—and After,” Kahn traced the March’s history back to labor leader A. Philip Randolph’s 1940 plan to demonstrate in the capital for an end to wartime employment discrimination (called off once Franklin Roosevelt conceded certain demands). Echoing the speech delivered by John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Kahn identified the promise of the march with the prospect of continued militancy:

At the Lincoln Memorial, a quarter of a million people pledged to continue the struggle at home—in the streets as well as in the courts. This pledge may well turn out to be more important than the eloquent speeches or the specific demands. The streets were the incubators of the March on Washington, and it was pressures from the streets that fused jobs and freedom into a single slogan. Action in the streets in cities and towns across the country, in keeping with the pledge, will keep the March on Washington Movement alive and militant.

more from The Editors at Dissent here.