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Martin Luther King and Marches of Freedom


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On August 28, 1963 about 250,000 people attended the March on Washington D.C., for Jobs and Freedom. This demonstration was the largest demonstration ever seen in the nation’s capital, and the first to have extensive television coverage.

The demands for this march included the passage of meaningful civil rights legislation, the elimination of racial segregation in public schools; protection for demonstrators against police brutality, a major public-works program to provide jobs, the passage of a law prohibiting racial discrimination in public and private hiring, a $2 an hour minimum wage; and self-government for the District of Columbia, which had a black majority.


This March/protest on Washington D.C. was organized by a coalition of several civil rights organizations, all of which generally had different approaches and different agendas. The major organizers who led their organization to this march were Martin Luther King, Jr. of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), John Lewis of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), James Farmer of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, Roy Wilkins of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Whitney Young, Jr. of the National Urban League.

                                                  The speakers

The two most noteworthy speeches came from John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr. John Lewis represented the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a younger, more radical group than King’s. Other speakers included James Farmer who was imprisoned in Louisiana at the time, but his speech was read by Floyd McKissick, labor leader Walter Reuther. Josephine Baker was the only female speaker among them. She introduced several Negro Women Fighters for Freedom, including Rosa Parks.

Martin Luther King, Jr. speech

His speech is considered one of the most famous speeches in American history. He started with prepared remarks, saying he was there to “cash a check” for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” In his speech Martin Luther King, Jr. warn his fellow protesters not to allow their creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. He said that they must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.


A civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, took place at Alabama in 1965. It was James Bevel who made the call for this march. King, Bevel, and the SCLC, in partial collaboration with SNCC, made the first attempt to organize the march to the state’s capital. This first attempt to march on March 7, 1965, was aborted because of mob and police violence against the demonstrators.


Therefore that day become known as Bloody Sunday. It became a major turning point in the effort to gain public support for the Civil Rights Movement. It was the clearest demonstration up to that time of the dramatic potential of King’s nonviolence strategy. But king could not attend this march because of his religious duty.

On March 9 Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. He held a short prayer session and turned the marchers around and asked them to disperse so as not to violate the court order which prohibited them from marching and protest. The unexpected ending of this second march aroused the anger of so many people within the local movement.

On March 25, 1965, they finally held the march. At the conclusion of the march on the steps of the state capital, King delivered a speech that became known as “How Long, Not Long”. In his speech, King stated that equal rights for African Americans could not be far away, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.

                         AGAINST THE WAR IN VIET NAM, MARCH 196

Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed the involvement of American in the Vietnam War. Though he initially, he avoided the topic in public speeches so he could avoid the interference with civil rights goals that the criticism of President Johnson’s policies might have created. But with the encouragement James Bevel, King eventually agreed to publicly oppose the war as opposition was growing among the American public.

In April 4, 1967 exactly one year before his death, king delivered a speech at the New York City Riverside Church. He titled the speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence”. He spoke against the U.S.’s role in the war, stating that the U.S. was in Vietnam to occupy it as an American colony. He called the U.S. government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” He also connected the war with economic injustice, arguing that the country needed serious moral change:

Martin Luther King, Jr. also opposed the Vietnam War because the money and resources that could have been spent on social welfare was used for the war. He argued that much money was spent on the military and less on anti-poverty programs. He said that if a nation continues to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift, that the nation is approaching spiritual death. King also criticized American opposition to North Vietnam’s land reforms.


The African-American Civil Rights Movement was a social movement in the United States whose goals was to end racial segregation and discrimination against black Americans. It aims at securing legal recognition and federal protection of the citizenship rights.

Between 1955 and 1968, there were acts of nonviolent protest and civil disobedience which produced crisis situations between activists and government authorities.

Some of the legislative achievements as a result of this Civil Rights Movement included passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that banned discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965, that dramatically opened entry to the U.S. to immigrants.