1) Dr. King was not the favored son of the march. In fact, many of the leaders didn’t want to invite him because he was too radical. His insistence upon discussions about poverty and opposition to the US war machine made him so many enemies that he was nearly ejected from the list of speakers. In other words, he was acting a little bit like Dr. Cornel West.
2) There was an estimated audience of between 200,000 and 300,000, with 75-80% of the marchers being black.
3) The march is considered a primary catalyst for the passing the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).
4) Earlier efforts to have a march on Washington included the March on Washington Movement of the 1940s, led by A. Philip Randolph, president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, president of the Negro American Labor Council, and vice president of the AFL-CIO. Randolph called for 10,000 workers to march on Washington to demand an executive order to stop discrimination in the hiring of US military contractors. The threat of the march led to the passage of Executive Order 8802 establishing the Committee on Fair Employment Practice and also banning discriminatory hiring in the defense industry.
5) John F. Kennedy had been regularly criticized for promising one thing and doing another in the area of civil rights. Dr. King had been a critic of the administration, describing Kennedy’s racial policies as “tokenism.”
6) In 1963, the black unemployment rate was not as bad as it is right now (10% vs. 12.6%)
7) The original march was going to be a two day protest, consisting of sit-ins and lobbying, along with a large rally. The original march was going to focus on economic inequality, at least that was A. Philip Randolph’s plan. It was eventually expanded to “jobs and freedom.”
8) Malcolm X was not a fan of the march, dubbing it the “farce on Washington.”
9) The FBI investigated links between the march and the Communist party. Days before the march, they reached out to celebrity supporters, asking them to withdraw their support. One of the strongest attackers was the late Sen. Strom Thurmond.
10) Organizers planned the march out of an office in Harlem. Several organizers received bomb threats right before the march was to begin. One man called the FBI and threatened to “put a hole in King’s eyes.” The FBI did not follow up in the threat.
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