The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history and called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. It took place in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech advocating racial harmony at the Lincoln Memorial during the march.
The march was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, under the theme “jobs and freedom.” Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000. About 75% of the marchers were black.
In this letter, President Kennedy applauds the efforts of the civil rights movement, and promises that the government will continue to promote equality.
We have witnessed today in Washington tens of thousands of Americans – both Negro and white – exercising their right to assemble peaceably and direct the widest possible attention to a great national issue. Efforts to secure equal treatment and equal opportunity for all without regard to race, color, creed, or nationality are neither novel nor difficult to understand. What is different today is the intensified and widespread public awareness of the need to move forward in achieving these objectives – objectives which are older than this Nation.
Although this summer has seen remarkable progress in translating civil rights from principles into practices, we have a very long way yet to travel. One cannot help but be impressed with the deep fervor and the quiet dignity that characterizes the thousands who have gathered in the Nation’s Capital from across the country to demonstrate their faith and confidence in our democratic form of government. History has seen many demonstrations – of widely varying character and for a whole host of reasons. As our thoughts travel to other demonstrations that have occurred in different parts of the world, this Nation can properly be proud of the demonstration that has occurred here today. The leaders of the organizations sponsoring the March and all who have participated in it deserve our appreciation for the detailed preparations that made it possible and for the orderly manner in which it has been conducted.
The executive branch of the Federal Government will continue its efforts to obtain increased employment and to eliminate discrimination in employment practices, two of the prime goals of the March. In addition, our efforts to secure enactment of the legislative proposals made to the Congress will be maintained, including not only the civil rights bill, but also proposals to broaden and strengthen the manpower development and training program, the youth employment bill, amendments to the vocational education program, the establishment of a work-study program for high school age youth, strengthening of the adult basic education provisions in the administration’s education program, and the amendments proposed to the public welfare work-relief and training program. This Nation can afford to achieve the goals of a full employment policy – it cannot afford to permit the potential skills and educational capacity of its citizens to be unrealized.
The cause of 20 million Negroes has been advanced by the program conducted so appropriately before the Nation’s shrine to the Great Emancipator, but even more significant is the contribution to all mankind.
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