Today is the 56th anniversary of The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
On August 28, 1963, an estimated 250,000 people peacefully gathered in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The purpose of the march was to call for fair treatment and equal opportunity for African Americans and to advocate for passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Mahalia Jackson and Joan Baez were among the fourteen performers who contributed songs to the day’s long program of speeches, remarks and prayers.
Here are two fascinating films of these remarkable women from that most historic day.
First, Mahalia Jackson singing a gospel song, “How I Got Over.” (Her singing – with the lyrics – begins at the 30-second mark in this video.)
And next, Joan Baez in the midst of leading the multitude in singing “We Shall Overcome.”
Biographer, journalist and professor Jon Meacham writes in his wonderful new book Songs Of America: Patriotism, Protest, And The Music That Made A Nation: “The songs of the March on Washington offer a microcosm of the political panoply of life in (those) years as gospel and folk, and black and white came together to acknowledge the difficulty of the struggle and the justice of the claims of those seeking equality.”
The most well known speech that day was given by The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. That masterpiece has become known as Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.