Thousands Gather for 60th Anniversary of Historic March on Washington
While it is important to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington on August 26, 2023, we must also evaluate our progress. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was a special unifying demonstration that brought together more than 250,000 people to demand civil and economic rights for Black Americans. The march is best remembered for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “l Have a Dream” speech, which articulated his vision of racial harmony and justice in America. But what has happened since that momentous day? How far has the civil rights movement progressed, and what challenges remain?
One of the immediate outcomes of the march was the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin in public accommodations, employment, education, and voting. The act also authorized the federal government to enforce desegregation orders and to prosecute individuals who violated civil rights laws. The following year, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which banned literacy tests and other barriers that prevented Black Americans from exercising their right to vote. The act also empowered the federal government to oversee elections in states with a history of racial discrimination.
The civil rights movement continued to challenge racial inequality and injustice in the late 1960s and beyond, but also faced internal divisions and external opposition. Some activists, such as Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party, advocated for a more militant and separatist approach, while others, such as King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), maintained their commitment to nonviolence and integration.
The movement also expanded its scope to address issues such as poverty, housing, health care, education, and criminal justice. However, the movement also faced resistance from white supremacists, segregationists and conservatives who opposed its goals and methods. Some of the most violent incidents of the era occurred in response to civil rights protests, such as the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, which killed four young girls; the assassination of King in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968; and the police brutality against peaceful demonstrators in Selma, Alabama in 1965.
Despite these setbacks, the civil rights movement achieved significant legal and social changes that improved the lives of millions of Black Americans and other marginalized groups. The movement also inspired other movements for social justice and human rights around the world, such as the antiapartheid movement in South Africa, the feminist movement, the gay rights movement, and the environmental movement. The legacy of the civil rights movement can be seen in the election of Barack Obama as the first Black president of the United States in 2008 and 2012; the emergence of Black Lives Matter as a global movement against police brutality and systemic racism; and the diversity and activism of the younger generations.
However, the struggle for racial equality and justice is not over. Many of the problems that plagued Black Americans in 1963 still persist today, such as economic inequality, educational disparities, health disparities, mass incarceration, voter suppression and racial discrimination. Moreover, new challenges have emerged in the 21st century, such as globalization, immigration, terrorism, climate change and social media. These challenges require new strategies and solutions that address both the historical and contemporary dimensions of racial oppression and injustice. As King said in his speech at the march: “We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. we cannot turn back.”
WLI recognizes the need to continue the pursuit of full equality, and has intentionally incorporated strategies designed to promote greater diversity equity and inclusion for women and girls who have been systematically marginalized,
ABOUT WLI: The Women’s Leadership Institute is an organization established to advance and improve the personal, economic, and professional status of women and girls. Activities and programs are designed to engage women in development initiatives to attract, evolve, retain, and promote talented women and girls, seeking leadership advancement and opportunities for skills enrichment. We connect women and girls across industries and demographics to help address their most important leadership issues. Visit our web page at www.tcfiswli.com.
Story by Barbara Edwards, Esq., Chair, Women’s Leadership Institute