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24 Inspirational Pictures From MLK's March on Washington

On August 28th, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream for America.

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On Aug. 28, 1963 — standing at a podium in front of a crowd of over 200,000 people of all ages, nationalities, and races — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream for America.


Called "The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," the rally in Washington, D.C., was organized as a call for civil and economic rights for African-Americans. At the time, Jim Crow laws in the South continued to mandate the segregation of schools, public spaces, businesses, and even marriages — ensuring that African-Americans would remain second-class citizens in the United States.

"...that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Express Newspapers / Getty Images

Organizing the march came with a number of setbacks. In the days prior to the march, many of its participants received death threats from people who felt threatened by change in America.


"I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

Robert W. Kelley / LIFE / Getty

A phone call to the FBI even warned of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., while bomb threats grounded a number of incoming flights that morning.

"I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice."

The day before, volunteers worked tirelessly to prepare signs for the rally, expecting only about 100,000 supporters to attend. To the right, deputy organizer of the march, Bayard Rustin, talks about the upcoming rally with activist and friend Cleveland Robinson.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."


The government and authorities took no threat lightly. Over 5,000 police officers were placed on duty to keep the peace, while the government called upon some 2,000 National Guardsmen in the event of an emergency situation.


King went on, "One day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."


By noon, hundreds of vehicles were arriving by the minute carrying people ready to march at the state capital.

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight."

Afp / AFP / Getty Images

After gathering first at the Washington monument, somewhere between 200,000 to 300,000 people marched their way to the steps of Lincoln Memorial.

"And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

Temperatures soared to a humid 87 degrees — but still, the determined marchers carried on. To right, a young woman suffering from heat exhaustion is carried away by a police officer.


"With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."

Paul Schutzer / LIFE / Getty

Sitting at the White House and watching Dr. King speak on T.V., President John F. Kennedy is quoted to have said, "He's damned good. Damned good."

"And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country 'tis of thee..."


Musicians Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performed for the gigantic crowds, their songs of inspiration and protest.

"...sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring!"

Paul Schutzer / LIFE / Getty

Folk singer Odetta Holmes gave a remarkable performance that day as well, alongside folk group Peter, Paul and Mary and gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.


"And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true."


Anne Moody, who was a black activist from Mississippi later recalled: "I sat on the grass and listened to the speakers, to discover we had 'dreamers' instead of leaders leading us. Just about every one of them stood up there dreaming."

"When we allow freedom to ring–when we let it ring from every city and every hamlet,"


Walter Naegel, partner of the late Bayard Rustin, tells BuzzFeed, "They were predicting riots and unrest. But I think Bayard was hoping for what actually happened, which was a very non-violent, peaceful, uplifting joyful demonstration. It put new blood and new hope into the situation."

"From every state and every city..."

Nbc / NBC News / NBCU Photo Bank

The media paid unprecedented attention to the rally as well, translating the broadcast into 36 languages and airing on nearly every T.V. set across America.

"We will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children–black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Chatholics..."

Nbc / NBC News / NBCU Photo Bank

In the picture, NBC news reporter Nancy Dickerson interviews singer Lena Horne about the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.