Today marks the 50th Anniversary of the “March for Jobs and Freedom” on August 28, 1963, where nearly 300,000 people descended on Washington, D.C. in support of civil and economic rights for African Americans. This march is widely credited with influencing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights act of 1965, and culminated in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech.
Greg Kaufmann’s article, The Unfinished March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, articulates that most Americans associate the march with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, but there were nine other speeches that day, calling for:
- Decent housing
- Adequate and integrated education
- A federal jobs program for full employment
- A national minimum wage of over $15.00 in today’s dollars
What rings true is that these speeches from 50 years ago still apply today – Americans living in poverty, striving for decent housing, better education, adequate healthcare and job security. The New York Times’ A Dream Examined illustrates that a half century after the march, disparities in education, employment, housing and wages still exist. For example:
- EDUCATION: Three-quarters of Black Americans still attend schools where more than half the student body are minorities.
- JOBS: Black unemployment has remained above 10 percent for a majority of the last five decades and is twice the rate of unemployment among White Americans.
- MINIMUM WAGE: The current federal minimum wage, $7.25, is lower than the $9.53 per hour minimum wage in 1963.
- POVERTY: Poverty rates remain roughly twice as high for African Americans compared with White Americans.
A. Philip Randolph, then President of the Negro American Labor Council and key organizer of the march said: “We have no future in a society in which 6 million black and white people are unemployed and millions more live in poverty. Nor is the goal of our civil rights revolution merely the passage of civil rights legislation. Yes, we want all public accommodations open to all citizens, but those accommodations will mean little to those who cannot afford to use them.”
If you have a minute today or this week, consider …
- Reading Dr. King’s speech in its entirety
- Listening to Mr. Randolph’s March for Jobs and Freedom address
… in an effort to honor today’s anniversary – and how far we’ve come – while simultaneously acknowledging how far we have yet to go in building a Well-Community.
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