Thousands march to mark the 60th anniversary of MLK's 'I Have a Dream' speech


On Saturday, people participated in the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, which was held at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.

Saul Loeb/AFP through Getty Images

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On Saturday, people participated in the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington, at the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Sixty years ago, 250,000 people were estimated to have gathered in Washington’s nation capital at the Lincoln Memorial for a March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech on that day in August 1963 has become a symbol for the fight for racial equality. On Saturday, tens-of-thousands of people gathered at the same location to declare that this dream was in danger — that America has regressed in its fight against hate and bigotry. “Sixty-years ago, Martin Luther King spoke about a dream. “Sixty years after Martin Luther King spoke of a dream, we are the dreamers”, said civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton is the leader of the National Action Network – one of the two groups who organized the rally. The nonprofit Drum Major Institute hosted the event. It was described as “not a remembrance” but rather a “continuation of King’s Vision” after a year in which Supreme Court rulings rolled back progress on race and national legislation. Speakers called for an ending to hate and racism

The program included dozens of high profile speakers who highlighted the prevalence of civil right abuses such as systemic racist, hate speech and hate crimes, gun violence, police brutality and poverty. Speakers called for an end to hate and bigotry

The five-hour program featured dozens of high-profile speakers who noted the prevalence of civil rights abuses, such as systemic racism, hate speech, hatred crimes, police brutality, gun violence, poverty, the loss of voting rights, and the collapse of reproductive rights, just to name a few topics that surfaced.

Martin Luther King III delivers remarks with his wife Arndrea and daughter Yolanda (center), at the rally held in Washington D.C. on Saturday.

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Civil right activist Martin Luther King III, accompanied by his daughter Yolanda King and wife Arndrea waters King, delivered remarks at the rally held in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

As they marched towards King’s statue, people wore “I Have a Dream” T-shirts and carried banners that read “Black Lives Matter”. As temperatures reached the upper 80s, many sought refuge under the shade of the trees at the Lincoln Memorial. Despite crowds, rugby matches continued as scheduled across the Mall while joggers, bikers and cyclists stuck to their route, according to a news report by The Associated Press. Some speakers were blaring with the sound of planes departing from Ronald Regan National Airport, which is nearby. The majority of the speakers were women, compared to the original march where only one woman spoke. Many of the speakers who took the podium were women — only one female speaker was featured at the original march.
And just as this year’s lineup of speakers was more diverse, so too were the issues they spotlighted.

Actor Sasha Baron Cohen called for an end to antisemitism. Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg called for younger generations to run for office in response to gun violence.

Democratic members of Congress, including South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn and New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, called for federal voting rights protections as some states continue to restrict election rules.

Activists say the progress made by King’s generation is in jeopardy

King’s 1963 speech is credited with helping pave the way for major federal voting rights legislation, as well as the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act. Pushback and violence also followed. Just two weeks after the meeting, four Black children died in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham, Ala. One year later, voting right marchers were brutally attacked while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge near Selma.

Commemorations of the original 1963 gathering have taken place over the decades, and King’s speech continues to resonate — both serving as major symbols of America’s push and pull toward justice. Tens of thousands marched through D.C. in 2020 following the death of George Floyd by police, while millions of Americans participated in racial injustice protests and rallies across the nation. For some, Saturday’s march was another poignant reminder of the work that still needs to be done. “I often look at the reflection pool and Washington Monument, and I see a quarter million people 60 years back and only a trickling today,” Marsha DeanPhelts from Amelia Island in Florida told the AP. It was a lot more enthused back then. But the things we were asking for and needing, we still need them today,” she added.

Several leaders who helped organize the march met with Attorney General Merrick Garland and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke on Friday. The group discussed issues such as voting rights, redlining, and policing. The AP reported that President Joe Biden and vice president Kamala Harris would observe the true anniversary of the 1963 march by meeting organizers.