(Originally published August 26, 1983) We marched in 1963 to redress old grievances and to help resolve an American crisis.
That crisis is born of the twin evils of racism and economic deprivation. They rob black and poor people of dignity, self-respect and freedom. They impose a special burden on blacks who are denied the right to vote, economically exploited, refused access to public accommodations, subjected to inferior education, and relegated to substandard ghetto housing.
Discrimination in education and apprenticeship training renders blacks, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans and other minorities helpless in our mechanized, industrial society. Lacking specialized training, they are the first victims of automation. Thus the rage of black unemployment is nearly three times that of whites.
Their livelihoods destroyed, the black unemployed are thrown into the streets, driven to despair, to hatred, to crime, to violence. All America is robbed of their potential contribution.
Despite this crisis, reactionary Republicans and Southern Democrats in Congress are still working to defeat effective civil rights legislation. They fight against the rights of all workers and minority groups. They are sworn enemies of freedom and justice. They proclaim states rights in order to destroy human rights.
The Southern Democrats came to power by disenfranchising blacks. They know that as long as black workers are voteless, exploited and underpaid, the fight of the white workers for decent wages and working conditions would fail. They know that semi-slavery for one means semi-slavery for all.
We marched to demonstrate, massively and dramatically, our unalterable opposition to the forces of discrimination and to their century-long robbery of the American people. Our bodies, numbering over 200,000 bore witness – served historic notice – that jobs and freedom were needed at once.
What We Demanded
1. Comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation from the present Congress – without compromise or filibuster – to guarantee all Americans:
Access to all public accommodations
Adequate and integrated education
The right to vote.
2. Withholding of federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists.
3. Desegregation of all school districts in 1963.
4. Enforcement of the Fourteenth Amendment – reducing Congressional representation of states where citizens are disenfranchised.
5. A new Executive Order banning discrimination in all housing supported by federal funds.
6. Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when any constitutional right is violated.
7. A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers – blacks and other minorities – on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.
8. A national minimum wage act that will give all Americans a decent standard of living. (Government surveys show that anything less than $2 an hour fails to do this.)
9. A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to include all areas of employment which are presently excluded.
10. A federal Fair Employment Practices Act barring discrimination by federal, state and municipal governments, and by employers, contractors, employment agencies and trade unions.
A. Philip Randolph, National Chairman and Organizer
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
James Farmer, National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality.
Rev. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, Vice Chairman of the Commission on Race Relations of the National Council of Churches of Christ in America.
Walter Reuther, President of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, AFL-CIO, and Chairman Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO
Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
Whitney Young, Executive Director of the National Urban League
Rabbi Joachim Prinz, Chairman of the American Jewish Congress
Mathew Ahmann, Executive Director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice.
John Lewis, Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.