241,000 join in fervent appeal to Congress

Sept. 7, 1963


The cry was “freedom!”

The legions marched.

Some 241,000 singing, clapping, praying, marching Americans, Protestants, Jews, Catholics, black and white, flew, walked, rode, drove and roller skated to Washington Wednesday, to demand that a recalcitrant Congress pass effective civil rights legislation.

It was the largest demonstration in the capital in the nation’s history.

Twenty one charted trains and 16 regular trains screamed along the rails into Union Station bringing 23,000 passengers.

Some 1,600 buses roared down the nation’s highways bringing 60,000 passengers to Washington from as far west as Oklahoma City and Wyoming.

Over 30,000 marchers were from Philadelphia.

Clarksdale and Jackson, Mississippians, came in overalls, wearing them as a signal badge of honor.

The marchers wore sandals, loafers, high heels, tennis shoes and Lena Horne walked in boots but the marching cadence was the same. The synchronized beat was “Freedom Now!”

One hundred thirty Congressmen spent 15 minutes with their constituents. Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial facing the crowd they heard the yells of “Pass the bill! Pass the bill!” The reference was to President Kennedy’s proposed civil rights legislation.

The Congressmen left as A. Philip Randolph, director of the march, explained that the legislators could not remain because of the legislation pending on the threatened rail road strike.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, who received a standing ovation, said, “We will not come off the streets until we can work at any job befitting our skills any place in the land.”

Whitney M. Young, executive director of the National Urban League, declared, “This is a march just begun.” He urged Congress to pass the necessary legislation, admit to the tragic injustice that has been done to the country and its colored citizens by discrimination and take intensive remedial steps to correct the damage.