Numerous exhibits and programs in the nation’s capital will allow visitors to retrace the historic steps of the 1963 March on Washington 50 years later.
See the events list at the end of this article:
Several museums and cultural organizations have organized artifacts and art exhibits for visitors to learn about the march, the nation’s conflict over civil rights and the tumult leading up to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
At the Newseum, curators focused on the unique role of students in helping to lead the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. The museum about journalism and the First Amendment features a section of the original Woolworth’s lunch counter from Greensboro, N.C., where four black college students launched a sit-in after being denied service because of their race.
A short video documentary highlights some of the key players and moments of the era.
“Unlike the Smithsonian or elsewhere, we are looking at history through the lens of the First Amendment,” said Newseum video producer Frank Bond. That led curators beyond the role of journalists to also look at student leaders who fought for civil rights.
“The free press, yes, covered their exploits,” Bond said. “But it was speech and assembly that they took upon themselves as constitutional rights to fight what they felt was an unjust system, which was the Jim Crow system of segregation.”
At the time, John Lewis, now a Georgia congressman, told his fellow students they needed to be loud and visible to change the country. “You’ve got to get out there and push and organize and agitate and stand up and make some noise,” he said, leading curators to the focus for the exhibit.
The Newseum also is launching a three-year changing exhibit called “Civil Rights at 50,” which will be updated each year with key milestones in the civil rights movement. The year 1963 opened with Alabama Gov. George Wallace declaring “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” And that summer, he stood in a University of Alabama doorway to try to block two black students from attending class.
That was June. By August of that year, more than 200,000 people were marching on the National Mall, demanding justice, jobs and freedom.
The Newseum pulled together news coverage from the time. Much of the Northern press coverage was positive, curators noted, while Southern newspapers often disagreed with the march’s mission. After the march, a Jackson Clarion-Ledger front-page headline declared: “Washington is Clean again with Negro Trash Removed.”
Here are highlights from other programs and exhibits on view in Washington:
— National Museum of American History — The “Changing America” gallery explores the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, along with the March on Washington 100 years later. It includes artifacts and placards from the march. The museum also will host short performances near its display of part of the Greensboro, N.C., lunch counter, allowing visitors to take part in a training session for a sit-in based on a 1960s manual. On Aug. 28, the march anniversary, the museum will show footage of the historic march and host public programs to allow visitors to share their thoughts and memories.
— National Portrait Gallery — The new exhibit “One Life: Martin Luther King Jr.” includes historic photographs, prints, paintings and memorabilia showing King’s rise to prominence as a civil rights leader in the South, leading up to his memorable speech in Washington.
— Civil Rights Tour — The African American Civil War Museum has organized a tour of Washington’s Civil War and Civil Rights sites to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war and the 50th anniversary of the march. It includes a tour of U Street, once known as the “Black Broadway,” and a stop at the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
— Library of Congress — The new exhibit “A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington” opens Aug. 28 featuring 42 black-and-white images by photojournalists and people who participated in the march.
— National Museum of Women in the Arts — The exhibit “American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold’s Paintings of the 1960s” explores this prominent black artist’s portrayal of racial inequality in the 1960s.
— Washington National Cathedral — The National Cathedral will host a special forum on Aug. 25 featuring audio excerpts from King’s last Sunday sermon delivered at the church in 1968. The cathedral and other churches also will ring their bells at the moment of King’s “Dream” speech on Aug. 28 at 3 p.m. to honor the anniversary.
List of March On Washington events, via the Huffington Post.
Event: “Celebrating the Legacy of A. Philip Randolph & Bayard Rustin” 44th Annual A. Philip Randolph Institute National Conference
Where: Hyatt Regency, 400 New Jersey Ave. NW
When: August 23 to August 29
Register: Register at www.apri.org or contact Jan Temple at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 508-3710
Cost: Prices vary
Details: The conference includes town hall meetings centered around topics such as race and poverty and voting, as well as youth workshops and commemorative ceremonies.
Event: Global Freedom Festival
Where: The National Mall, 7th and 14th St. NW
When: August 24, 2 p.m. to August 27, 10 a.m.
Sponsored by: The King Center and National Park Service; The Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom
Contact: Peggy Cusack at email@example.com or (404) 526-8900
Details: The festival will include four days of “education, entertainment and activities” focused on the “freedoms to participate in government, prosper in life and peacefully co-exist.”
Event: Conference on Civil Rights
Where: The Washington Court Hotel, 535 New Jersey Ave. NW
When: August 27, 8:45 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sponsored by: Howard University
Cost: $50 for adults, $25 for students
Register: Register here.
Details: The Conference features panel discussions, speakers, open discussion groups on civil rights topics ranging from gun control to women’s rights to education.
Event: Panel Discussion with the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
01 K St. NW, Roosevelt Studio
When: August 27, 7 p.m.
Sponsored by: The Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Details: The panel will analyze the impact of the March on Washington through the photographers who covered the event. Panelists include:
-Krissah Thompson of The Washington Post
-Eric Kulberg, photographer and documentary producer
-Jennifer Krafchik, library director of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
-Derek Gray, community archivist
Event: Interfaith Service
Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
When: August 28, 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Sponsored by: The King Center; The Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom; National Council of Negro Women; SCLC; National Urban League; National Coalition of Black Civic Participation; National Action Network; National Council of Churches, Children’s Defense Fund
Event: March for Jobs and Justice
Where: Assemble at 600 New Jersey Ave., ending at a rally on National Mall.
When: August 28, assemble at 8 a.m., march at 9:30 a.m.
Details: “Veterans” of the 1963 march will lead a 1.6-mile walk through downtown D.C., accompanied by a bus used during the segregation era dubbed the “Civil Rights Museum On Wheels.” Check out the route of the 1963 March on Washington 50 years ago here.
Event: The Let Freedom Ring Commemoration
And Call to Action Ceremony
Where: The Lincoln Memorial
When: August 28, 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Sponsored by: The King Center; The Coalition for Jobs, Justice and Freedom; National Council of Negro Women; SCLC; National Urban League; National Coalition of Black Civic Participation; National Action Network; National Council of Churches; Children’s Defense Fund
Details: President Obama will speak from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. At 3 p.m., there will be a bell-ringing ceremony marking the time that Dr. King delivered his famous address.