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Racial Inequality

What Obama Didn’t Say

Evan Vucci/AP

To be fair, in his speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the president did address economic fairness. But he missed a point on racial justice, says Jamelle Bouie.

As president of the United States, Barack Obama is the highest-profile legacy of the civil-rights movement, and when he took the podium Wednesday afternoon, at a daylong commemoration of the March on Washington, he acknowledged as much. “Because they marched,” he said, punctuating a brief retelling of the civil-rights story, “the voting rights law was signed ... City councils changed, and state legislatures changed, and Congress changed, and, yes, eventually the White House changed.

Earth Shattering

King’s Dream of Love


Perhaps Dr. King’s most enduring heroism was his ability to love—and his belief in his power. On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Maurice Decaul says he’s trying to make that love a part of his life.

When I think of Dr. King, I can’t help but think of his capacity for love in the sense of agape: “Love men not because you like them but because God loves them.” I’ve wondered whether Dr. King ever thought of himself as a hero or of what he was doing as a leader for civil rights, human rights, and economic rights as particularly heroic. If asked directly, he likely would have answered no. But his acts were heroic: demanding that justice and equality be honored in a nation that claimed to sanctify them even as the power of its laws and the brutality of some of its less loving law officials were turned against him.


50 Years of the Civil-Rights Movement—in 10 Charts


In the half century since ‘I Have a Dream,’ African Americans have made some great strides in education, political representation, and voter turnout. In other areas, it’s like nothing has changed. See the data.

Inspiring Example

A March That Mattered


Tone-deaf media coverage and indifferent politicians were no match for the thousands who marched on Washington in 1963 to support the civil-rights movement. Jon Favreau on why the march continues to inspire us.

On Sunday, August 25, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and NAACP Executive Secretary Roy Wilkins sat down for an interview on Meet the Press about the impending March on Washington. The first question forced the men to answer the charge that many believed it “impossible” for “100,000 militant negroes” to assemble without rioting. The second question asked what gains could possibly outweigh the risks of marching. The third question was “Don’t you think, though, that both the country and Congress itself are aware of the situation? Do you have to take the risks you are going to take in order to emphasize it?” The fourth question not-so-subtly accused the civil-rights movement’s leadership of communist infiltration.

A March to Remember

“So Much Hope”

Pete Marovich/Getty Images

That was the feeling of the marchers gathered on August 28, 1963 as they heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speak. Former New York Times reporter Hedrick Smith recalls covering that famous, joyful day.

Fifty years ago today, August 28, 1963, I watched the first advance elements of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom arriving in the nation’s capital. As the sky dawned pink-then-orange behind the stiletto spire of the Washington Monument, an army of overnight buses rolled into the city from points north—New York, New England, the Middle West. They parked single file along the Mall, delivering a small army of people.The early arrivers bubbled with quiet excitement.

Music at the March

‘Eyes on the Prize’

Rowland Scherman/National Archive/Newsmakers, via Getty

Folk music dominated the soundtrack of the March on Washington 50 years ago, with performances by Mahalia Jackson, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and of course Bob Dylan—who would later stage a weird and shocking retreat from protest politics, writes Michael Tomasky.

One aspect of the March on Washington that can’t be overlooked: the music. It’s around. You can see it. Bob Dylan’s three songs—two, really, as I’ll explain below—have inevitably made their way to YouTube, as has Mahalia Jackson’s song as have Peter, Paul, and Mary’s Marian. Anderson’s “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” doesn’t appear to have successfully completed the social-media voyage, but perhaps even more interestingly, you can see her more historically important Lincoln Memorial performance, her “My Country ’Tis of Thee” from back in 1939 when black people weren’t supposed to appear on stages with white people at all.

False Start

Comedy of Errors at GOP’s MLK Party

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call, via Getty

It wasn’t just bad waiters and technical failures that cast a shadow over the GOP’s anniversary celebration. Ben Jacobs reports on a party stumbling toward modest goals.

They were very patient at the RNC’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Monday. The Republicans all waited to eat their cheesecake while diligently devouring their greens.In a long, narrow dining room festooned with portraits of Republican presidents (they had a complete chronological set from Herbert Hoover to Ronald Reagan on the walls, with two Lincolns and a Teddy Roosevelt to boot), over 100 people, a predominantly African-American crowd of Republicans and civil-rights activists, gathered for a rubber-chicken luncheon to pay tribute to Martin Luther King Jr.


Black Republicanism Is Alive

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Conservative politics can thrive in pockets of the black community. Republicans just have to work for it, writes Jamelle Bouie after going to the RNC’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

When Sen. Rand Paul (R–Kentucky) went to Howard University earlier this year to speak to African-American college students and commence his outreach to the black community, I—and others—were frustrated by his refusal to acknowledge the dual heritage of his political party. He wanted to claim the Great Emancipator (“We are the Party of Lincoln!”without acknowledging the cultural legacy of Ronald Reagan, who railed against “welfare queens,” capitalized on white fear, and—as an opponent of the Voting Rights Act—stood on the wrong side of history when it mattered most.

Watch This!

‘I Have a Dream,’ Annotated

CBS Photo Archive, via Getty

Ever wondered where ‘Let freedom ring’ came from or whether there were any Lincoln allusions? To mark the national holiday that honors the civil-rights leader, watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, with annotations by John Avlon.

Fifty years ago, hundreds of thousands gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech, with annotations from John Avlon about the reverend’s allusions and the context of his words. Press play on the video below to begin.

50 Years On

The March Was Militant

Jamelle Bouie/The Daily Beast

Fifty years after the March on Washington, it’s remembered as a moment of interracial unity. Reporting from Saturday’s commemorative march, Jamelle Bouie recalls the original’s militant, unpopular agenda.

Saturday’s March on Washington was a diverse, multigenerational cross-section of America, with people of every shape, size, and hue. But what stood out to me most were the signs.“We demand equality for all!” said one, held by women from the League of United Latin American Citizens. “We march to end RACIAL PROFILING,” said several others, carried by groups of black college students. An older white woman shielded herself from the sun with a sign that asked observers to “Support Trayvon’s Law,” and a group of Filipino women stood on the outskirts of the Lincoln Memorial, in the middle of the crowd, with signs that read “STOP TRAFFICKING OUR PEOPLE!” and “Stop the Imperialist Exploitation of Women and Children!!!”It’s not hard to imagine places in the United States where these signs are off-putting and as alienating as the “Don’t Tread on Me” signs that dot Tea Party protests.


The Dream Still Lives

Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty

In an interview with Allison Samuels, Bernice King talks about her father’s legacy, civil rights today and the Trayvon Martin case

Bernice King was five-years old when her father, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated and just several months old when he delivered his epoch-making “I Have Dream” speech in 1963. As the country turns its attention this week to the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s pivotal speech, his youngest child is set to take center stage, leading a series of events focused on social change. King, the CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, spoke to The Daily Beast’s Allison Samuels about her father’s legacy, America’s future and the death of Trayvon Martin.


Why Did They March?


In August 1963 Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, but what brought the civil rights activists to Washington? Charles Euchner says a new book raises important questions about the goal of the march—and King’s words of brutal truth.

As the fall turned into bleak winter in 1962, two of the nation’s leading civil rights leaders dreamed about dramatic marches to demand full citizenship for blacks.Martin Luther King asked President John Kennedy to issue a new emancipation proclamation on the centenary of the first. When JFK said no, King considered leading a march along the route Secretary of State William Seward used to deliver Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation on New Year’s Day 1863.

A Stunning 'Meet the Press'

Just before the March on Washington, Martin Luther King Jr. appeared on the program—and fielded questions from a very skeptical group of panelists.


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