1963 March on Washington

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people gathered in the nation’s capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march was the brainchild of longtime civil rights activist and labor leader A. Philip Randolph. With the support of the gifted organizer Bayard Rustin, the march was a collaboration of all factions of the civil rights movement. Originally conceived as a mass demonstration to spotlight economic inequalities and press for a new federal jobs program and a higher minimum wage, the goals of the march expanded to include calls for congressional passage of the Civil Rights Act, full integration of public schools, and enactment of a bill prohibiting job discrimination. The program at the Lincoln Memorial featured an impressive roster of speakers—including John Lewis—and closed with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Midway through his address, King abandoned his prepared text and launched into the soaring expression of his vision for the future, declaring, "I have a dream today."

On 60th anniversary of the March on Washington, the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture reflects on its historical legacy. King's “I Have a Dream Speech” will be on view in the museum for a limited time, Aug. 7–Sept. 18, 2023, in the Defending Freedom, Defining Freedom gallery.