Remembering the 1963 March on Washington

As we commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, it’s critical to contextualize the iconic campaign's challenges and triumphs. These resources can help.
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The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom has become one of the most iconic events from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and ’60s. On the 60th anniversary of the march, which galvanized hundreds of thousands of people, it is essential to understand the movement’s challenges and triumphs and connect the past to the present to shape a better future.

In today’s hostile political environment, politicians are restricting education throughout many states and school districts. Numerous efforts to censor how Black history—including civil rights history—is taught in schools are being imposed through book bans and policies that aim to prohibit discussions about systems of oppression. Young people must learn an accurate and more comprehensive history of our nation, in age-appropriate ways, to understand history’s relevance in ongoing movements toward an inclusive democratic society.

The following resources can aid educators, parents and caregivers, and all community members in teaching and discussing the honest history of the 1963 March on Washington.

Learning for Justice Articles

“Ten Things to Know About the March on Washington”

Think you know all about the march? Think again! As you commemorate the event, check out 10 things you may not know about the March on Washington.

“Gary Younge: Heroes Are Human”

Gary Younge's book The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream sheds light on the lesser-known struggles behind the march—and how young people can benefit from learning about them.

“Teaching About King’s Radical Approach to Social Justice”

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work is often sugarcoated, it’s important to teach that King championed economic justice and taught Black self-love while also pushing back against neutrality, imperialism and systemic racism.

“Patience Is a Dirty and Nasty Word”

John Lewis was 23 and the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) when he gave a censored version of this speech on August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington. This text is Lewis’ original version.

“Reflections on a Dream Deferred”

Rep. John Lewis looks at the legacy of Dr. King’s ideals. In this essay, Lewis contends, “Democracy is not a state. It is not some high plateau that we struggle to reach so we can finally settle down to rest. Democracy is an act. It is an act that requires participation, organization and dedication to the highest principles.”

Story Corner for Young Readers

“The Night Before the Dream”

In this short story, Bea’s family has traveled from far and wide to hear Dr. King—and plan how they’ll make his dream a reality.

External Resources

“The March on Washington” page from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund provides valuable resources, including the work of strategist Bayard Rustin and links to the march’s various speeches.

To teach about the March on Washington, review the Rethinking Schools article “Teaching a People’s History of the March on Washington,” which identifies some common misconceptions often reinforced by textbooks’ depictions of the march and recommends alternative approaches.

For more on the range of issues addressed by the March on Washington, watch “John Lewis’ Historic Speech at the March on Washington” (available from NowThis News on YouTube).

Read and listen to Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (available on NPR). 

“The Speech” interactive pages available on The Guardian website can provide more information regarding the lead-up to and aftermath of the march.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture’s collection “The Historical Legacy of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” includes primary source documents to explore, as well as analytical articles and short videos of some of the speeches from the march.