Wednesday, February 20, 2008
1963 and an important chapter in the history of America
Setting the scene via a history site at http://www.abbeville.com/civilrights/washington.asp:
In the spring and summer of 1963 the events in Birmingham inspired a wave of demonstrations elsewhere, more extensive than all that had come before. Almost a thousand actions were mounted in over a hundred southern cities, resulting in over twenty thousand arrests.
On June 19 President Kennedy sent Congress the promised civil rights bill, which offered federal protection to African Americans seeking to vote, to shop, to eat out, and to be educated on equal terms.
Pressuring Congress to adopt this bill and consolidating the huge upsurge in protest activities brought together major civil rights, labor, and religious groups to organize a massive Washington demonstration.
The roots of the 1963 March on Washington go back to a 1941 initiative by A. Philip Randolph, the trailblazing president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Randolph had organized the original March on Washington Movement, which was designed to pressure President Roosevelt to guarantee jobs for black men and women in the wartime armament industries. The 1941 march was canceled at the last moment when Roosevelt capitulated to the demands and issued the first executive order protecting African-American rights since the Emancipation Proclamation.
After the war Randolph also succeeded in persuading President Harry S. Truman to ban racial discrimination in the military.