The March on Washington brought a quarter of a million people to our nation’s capital six decades ago to protest rampant discrimination and peacefully demand equal rights for Black citizens. Saturday, tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the march.
Virginia Tech political science and Africana Studies professor Brandy Faulkner provided insights into the importance of the march, then and now.
Q: How does the March on Washington resonate with us 60 years later?
“The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was certainly a historic event during the Civil Rights Movement. At that time, the country was in the throes of mass political action to end racism, to secure economic opportunities, and really to make the Constitution and its principles meaningfully applicable to everyone. Many of us highlight one of the most inspiring speeches of all time — Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech. He urged this country to hold itself accountable for its broken promises and its unrealized vision for democracy.”
Q: How has the legacy of the march been carried on?
“So many people have continued the hard work of pursuing equity and making sure that vulnerable people aren’t disregarded. We have organizations still combating discriminatory voting policies. There are organizations trying to change institutions like policing. We still have organizations fighting for fair housing. John Lewis, A. Philip Randolph, Martin Luther King, and so many others who planned the march were visionaries. They were incredible leaders, and I think we can still learn so much from their courage and their resolve.”
Q: What should we remember about the march that isn’t widely discussed today?
“What we talk less about is the labor union roots of this march, more than 20 years in the making, and the very important connection to ideas like equal pay, the right to organize, fair wages, and human dignity. I think it’s especially important to mention that, since we’re approaching Labor Day, and the March on Washington was very much a labor march.”
Brandy Faulkner is collegiate assistant professor of political science and the Gloria D. Smith Professor of Africana Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Her areas of specialization include constitutional and administrative law, race and public policy, and critical organization theory. She teaches courses in public administration, constitutional law, administrative law, research methods, and the politics of race, ethnicity, and gender. View her full bio here. Faulkner’s expertise has been featured on NPR, Reuters, USA Today, and in the Atlanta Black Star.
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