By Eliana Lindenberg, Contributing Writer
On August 28, 1963 some 250,000 people participated in the March on Washington. The march was organized in order to call for the fair and equal treatment of African-Americans, as well as to advocate for the Civil Rights Act, which was then stalled in Congress. This march was also the occasion that featured Martin Luther King Jr.’s now famous I Have a Dream speech.
The march was officially called the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The 250,000 participants and 3,000 members of the press gathered at the Lincoln Memorial; symbolic because of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Despite the impressive line-up of speakers and performers that the march featured, one man stands out in history above all the rest — Martin Luther King Jr.
In his speech, Dr. King raised the issue that even 100 hundred years following the emancipation of African slaves in the United States, black Americans were still not free. He said that because African-Americans were still experiencing immense poverty compared to their white neighbors, as well as segregation throughout normal American society, the freedom given to African-Americans 100 years prior did not fix the “shameful condition” that the American government left these people in.
And yet, Dr. King had a dream.
He had a dream that one day, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners would sit together “at the table of brotherhood.” He dreamed that children would play together regardless of the color of their skin, and that true freedom and justice for all would live in America.
“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
In 1964, Dr. King’s dream would become that much closer to a reality. The Civil Rights Act was signed and with it prohibited “unequal application of voter registration requirements, and racial segregation in schools, employment, and public accommodations.”
Even further, the Civil Rights Act influenced the passage of later civil rights legislation, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which helped not only African-Americans, but women as well. Finally, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 aided the decision to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.