Milestone Documents

Official Program for the March on Washington (1963)

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Citation: March on Washington (Program), 08/28/1963; Bayard Rustin Papers; John F. Kennedy Library; National Archives and Records Administration.

This program listed the events scheduled at the Lincoln Memorial during the August 28, 1963, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The highlight of the march, which attracted 250,000 people, was Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

The civil rights movement in the United States during the late 1950s and 1960s was the political, legal, and social struggle to gain full citizenship rights for Black Americans and to achieve racial equality. Individuals and civil rights organizations challenged segregation and discrimination using a variety of activities, including protest marches, boycotts, and refusal to abide by segregation laws.

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 demonstrators descended upon the nation’s capital to participate in the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Not only was it the largest demonstration for human rights in United States history, but it also occasioned a rare display of unity among the various civil rights organizations. The event began with a rally at the Washington Monument featuring several celebrities and musicians. Participants then marched the mile-long National Mall to the Memorial. The three-hour long program at the Lincoln Memorial included speeches from prominent civil rights and religious leaders. The day ended with a meeting between the march leaders and President John F. Kennedy at the White House.

The idea for the 1963 March on Washington was envisioned by A. Philip Randolph, a long-time civil rights activist dedicated to improving the economic condition of Black Americans. When Randolph first proposed the march in late 1962, he received little response from other civil rights leaders. He knew that cooperation would be difficult because each had his own agenda for the civil rights movement, and the leaders competed for funding and press coverage. Success of the March on Washington would depend on the involvement of the so-called “Big Six”—Randolph and the heads of the five major civil rights organizations: Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Whitney Young, Jr., of the National Urban League; Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC); James Farmer of the Conference of Racial Equality (CORE); and John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).

The details and organization of the march were handled by Bayard Rustin, Randolph’s trusted associate. Rustin was a veteran activist with extensive experience in putting together mass protest. With only two months to plan, Rustin established his headquarters in Harlem, NY, with a smaller office in Washington. He and his core staff of 200 volunteers quickly put together the largest peaceful demonstration in U.S. history.


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AUGUST 28, 1963


1. The National Anthem
Led by Marian Anderson.

2. Invocation
The Very Rev. Patrick O'Boyle, Archbishop of Washington.

3. Opening Remarks
A. Philip Randolph, Director March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

4. Remarks
Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, Stated Clerk, United Presbyterian Church of the U.S.A.; Vice Chairman, Commission on Race Relations of the National Council of Churches of Christ in America.

5. Tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom
Daisy Bates
Diane Nash Bevel
Mrs. Medgar Evers
Mrs. Herbert Lee
Rosa Parks
Gloria Richardson

Mrs. Medgar Evers

6. Remarks
John Lewis, National Chairman, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

7. Remarks
Walter Reuther, President, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, AFL-CIO; Chairman, Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO.

8. Remarks
James Farmer, National Director, Congress of Racial Equality.

9. Selection
Eva Jessye Choir

10. Prayer
Rabbi Uri Miller, President Synagogue Council of America.

11. Remarks
Whitney M. Young, Jr., Executive Director, National Urban League.

12. Remarks
Matthew Ahmann, Executive Director, National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice.

13. Remarks
Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

14. Selection
Miss Mahalia Jackson

15. Remarks
Rabbi Joachim Prinz, President American Jewish Congress.

16. Remarks
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

17. The Pledge
A. Philip Randolph

18. Benediction
Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, President, Morehouse College.