The March on Washington’s 50th anniversary

August 28, 2013

Thousands of people gathered Wednesday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. President Obama, former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Oprah Winfrey and Jamie Foxx were among those who spoke. A host of roads and landmarks were closed because of the day’s events.

You can see our updates and dispatches from the Mall here. You can also follow the conversation on social media over on The Grid.

That’s it for our live coverage

We’re winding down our live coverage of the day’s March on Washington anniversary events.

Here’s President Obama’s speech today:

In addition, here are the latest photos from the event:

Metro reports higher ridership

Metro reported an uptick in ridership on Wednesday, with the throngs heading to the Mall leading to an overall increase in ridership over the day before.

Events on the Mall drew thousands of people, many of whom filed into Metro stations in response to road closures. But federal employees were encouraged to telecommute, so it was unclear just how many people would choose to stay home and avoid congestion.

Metro reported more than 415,000 trips taken by 4 p.m. on Wednesday, more than the 409,000 trips taken by the same time on Tuesday.

Bringing her daughters to ‘remember the experience’

From their spot outside the security barrier near the World War II Memorial, Brenda Harden and her 10-year-old twins Mia and Nia couldn’t hear President Obama’s speech.

But Harden didn’t mind. She was on the Mall for the first March on Washington, 50 years ago, and she can’t recall hearing the big speech that day either. She was six years old at the time.

“I don’t remember a thing that Martin Luther King said,” she said, “but I remember the experience. I had a sense that this was important for my people. It meant that something was going to change for me.”

Harden wanted to bring her daughters to the site just as her parents brought her as a child. As Obama spoke, she coaxed them to recall the history she had taught them about the civil rights movement.

Harden, who now lives in Upper Marlboro, said that Washington today is radically different from when she was growing up. She said her parents never traveled more than a few blocks away from their home, near 14th and U streets, an area that has dramatically developed over the years.

“I didn’t use to see anybody outside of my race,” she said. “I can take my children anywhere. I can expose them to anything.”

Transcripts of Obama, Clinton remarks

We transcribed portions of the speeches as they occurred earlier in the liveblog, but here are the complete transcripts for the remarks delivered by President Obama and former President Clinton earlier today.

Watch President Obama’s remarks here: 

Most roads reopen around the Mall

The D.C. police report that the bevy of roads closed around the Mall today have reopened. One exception: The barricaded areas near the Lincoln Memorial remain closed off.

Reacting to Obama’s speech

“I hear him in the context of the day,” said Heather Young, 43, of Baltimore County. “He’s basically saying that Dr. King’s message of nonviolence, Dr. King’s message of hope, are what we need.”

Festooned with a necklace she fashioned out of Obama buttons, Lori Watzman of D.C. called the president’s speech “amazing.” She said, however, that the address by The Rev. Bernice King, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter, was the speech of the day.

“It was there!” she said. “The president embodies the dream. He’s more than just his personal story.”

Photos from the Mall

Here’s an updated look at the scene on and around the Mall today, including images of the speakers:

Congressional leaders absent

President Obama, former Presidents Clinton and Carter and a bevy of actors and activists gathered on the Mall today to mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

A few key names were not present, though. As Ed O’Keefe reports, no leaders from the House or Senate attended the event. Head to Post Politics to learn more about why.

Crowds slowly head out

After President Obama finished speaking, many of those gathered on the Mall began making their way for the exits. Some had been there for several hours, and quite a few had only made it in by waiting in long, slow-moving lines. The lines had grown so long that some simply left before getting in.

Shortly before 2:45 p.m., officials opened up additional entry points, allowing an additional surge of people to flock to the Mall. Less than an hour later, many of them turned to head back out.

Many flood Mall before final speakers

Shortly after former President Bill Clinton spoke, the long line of people waiting to get in found themselves quickly being funneled onto the Mall.

Officials opened up more entry points, and added additional people to screen those coming in. Many found themselves near the front of the Reflecting Pool with direct sight of President Obama.

David Coley, 51, of Glendale said he arrived at 1 p.m., then waited for an hour to get in. He had to empty his pockets and authorities waved a magnetometer over him. He was able to get in time to hear the afternoon speakers.

Obama: Feeling of purpose remains

President Obama wrapped up his speech at the Lincoln Memorial by recalling the lessons of the 1963 March on Washington. It was a “coalition of conscience” that was expressed at the Mall five decades ago, he said.

“There’s a reason why so many who marched that day and in the days to come were young,” he said. The young are not constrained by fear, he said.

And he believes the same feeling of purpose exists today. The dangers of 1963 may not exist now, but problems still remain, he said.

READ: A transcript of Obama’s remarks

‘Seeking jobs as well as justice’

There is still much left to do to live up to the goals of the 1963 March on Washington, President Obama said.

“In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights…the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the march,” Obama said. “For the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract idea. They were there seeking jobs as well as justice.”

The people who marched wanted decent wages and safe working conditions, Obama said. The goals of economic equality have fallen short, Obama said. Poverty, inadequate health care and perennial violence remain problems for many, he said.

READ: A transcript of Obama’s remarks

Slain civil rights activists ‘did not die in vain’

President Obama said that because people gathered and marched in Washington and elsewhere and at other times, freedom and change slowly rippled out for people of different faiths, races and background.

“The entire world drew strength from that example,” he said.

The march was followed by incredible progress, Obama said, and he dismissed the notion that “little has changed” since 1963.

King and other slain civil rights activists “did not die in vain,” Obama said.

“Their victory was great,” he said. “But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete.”

READ: A transcript of Obama’s remarks

Obama: ‘The moral force’ of 1963

President Obama, speaking at the Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday afternoon, said those who gathered at the 1963 March on Washington had every reason to be angry or resigned.

“And yet, they chose a different path,” he said. “In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors. In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in with a moral force of non-violence. Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws.” (Transcript of Obama’s speech)

These people came with “that steady flame of conscience and courage” that they brought back to their cities and homes, he said. Obama noted that for many, their efforts continued in the form of smaller marches away from the spotlight.


President Barack Obama speaks at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Obama looks back at 1963 March

President Obama began his remarks at the ceremony by noting that five decades ago, Americans gathered at the Lincoln Memorial “to lay claim to a promise made at our founding.”

As thousands gathered for the March on Washington in 1963, he said, the promise of freedom issued in the Declaration of Independence remained unfulfilled. Those who traveled to Washington scrimped and saved, sometimes boarding buses where they couldn’t sit in certain seats, he noted.

“They were seamstresses and steelworkers, students and teachers,” Obama said.

The group assembled in Washington “under the shadow of the Great Emancipator,” he said, “to offer testimony of injustice.”

They were attempting to awaken the “long-slumbering conscience” of America, Obama said.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words “belong to the ages,” Obama said. “But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books.”

Ringing the bell

Just after 3 p.m., relatives of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, gathered around the bell that once hung in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. Members of King’s family rang the bell, one of many rung in nearly every state to commemorate the hour when King gave the “I Have A Dream” speech.

Bernice King: The message of the ‘great liberator’

The Rev. Bernice King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, noted that she was five months old when her father delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech.

Her father declared his dream five decades ago, a message that “amplified and echoed since 1963,” she said.

“Fifty years later, in this year of jubilee, we’re standing once again in the shadow of that great emancipator, having been summoned to these hallowed grounds to reverberate the message of that great liberator,” she said.

The crowd has gathered to reflect on “the continued struggle for freedom and justice,” King said.

“We must keep the sound and the message of freedom and justice going,” King said.

Christine King Farris: Unfinished work

Christine King Farris spoke about what changed when her brother, Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at the March on Washington in 1963.

“On that day, Martin achieved greatness, because he melded the hopes and dreams of millions into a grand vision of healing, reconciliation and brotherhood,” she said.

The gathering today “provides a powerful testament” to the idea that King’s dream will live on for many generations, she added.

“Our challenge as followers of Martin Luther King, Jr. is now to follow his life, leadership and legacy by living our lives in a way that carries forward [his] unfinished work,” she said.

Martin Luther King III: Much work remains

Martin Luther King III took the podium, noting that he and others have been speaking all week as the anniversary approached.

His father taught the power of love, King said today, an unselfish love as well as forgiveness.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do…No one ever told any of us that our roles would be easy,” King said.

Clinton: We ‘have to run our laps’

“What a debt we owe to those people who came here 50 years ago,” Clinton said.

Praising the civil rights leaders of that era, he talked about their lasting importance.

“We thank them for reminding us that America is always becoming, always on a journey, and we all — every single citizen among us — have to run our laps,” he said.

READ: A transcript of Clinton’s remarks

Clinton: ‘An empowering moment’

The civil rights leaders who organized the 1963 march knew what they were doing, former President Bill Clinton said at today’s commemoration.

“Martin Luther King urged his crowd not to drink from the cup of bitterness, but to reach across the racial divide,” Clinton said.

King’s speech, and the march itself, “was an empowering moment” as well as an empowered one, he said.

“This march, and that speech, changed America,” Clinton said.

READ: A transcript of Clinton’s remarks

Jimmy Carter: The ‘dream is still alive’

Former President Jimmy Carter recalled being grateful when the King family supported him for president in 1976.

The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. “made our nation stronger because he made our nation better,” Carter said.

Carter went on to praise King’s heroism, but he also noted how he believes King would have reacted to problems such as high unemployment, mass incarceration of African-Americans, and voting restrictions.

“There’s a tremendous agenda ahead of us, and I’m thankful to Martin Luther King, Jr. that his dream is still alive,” Carter said.

John Lewis: ‘Change has come’

Looking out over the crowd, it seems as if “change has come,” Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) said after taking the podium.

The civil rights icon, who was the youngest speaker at the 1963 March on Washington, noted that there’s still work to be done to achieve the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I first came to Washington in the same year that President Obama was born to participate in the Freedom Rides,” Lewis said. (Watch the speech)

Lewis recounted the myriad injustices that African-Americans endured at the time of the March on Washington. And so hundreds of thousands came to Washington in August 1963, a gathering that was viewed with fear in D.C. But there was no disorder and no chaos, Lewis said.

“People came that day, to that march, dressed like they were on their way to a religious service,” he said.

Lewis noted there was “not one incident of violence” that day.

“On that day, Martin Luther King, Jr. made a speech, but he also delivered a sermon,” he said.

Five decades later, “we can ride anywhere we want to ride,” Lewis said.  “But there are still invisible signs, barriers in the heart of humankind.”

READ: A transcript of Lewis’s remarks


Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., speaks at the Let Freedom Ring ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Obamas joined on stage by Clinton, Carter

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama are taking the stage now, accompanied by former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.

Bill Russell speaks … 50 years later


Given the opportunity, Bill Russell chose to speak at this march. (Charles Dharapak / AP)

Basketball great Bill Russell was one of the first to address the crowd, and the former Boston Celtics player and coach noted that he wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to speak at this anniversary march.

“Fifty years ago, the night before the march, I met Dr. King … one of the great experiences of my life,” Russell said (via The Hill). “He invited me to be up here, and I respectfully declined because the organizers had worked for years to get this together, and I hadn’t done anything.”

Russell, who will turn 80 next winter, sat “in the first row 50 years ago, and it’s nice to be anywhere 50 years later.”

For years, Russell chose not to maintain a low profile, only rarely making public appearances. Now, he is revealing an eloquent side that he showed to very few people.

“We can never accept the status quo,” he said today, “until the word ‘progress’ is taken out of my vocabulary.”

Oprah: ‘Walk in the footsteps’ of MLK

Oprah Winfrey took the stage at the Lincoln Memorial to recall how she wanted to attend the March on Washington as a young girl. Now, 50 years later, she is speaking to commemorate that event.

“Dr. King believed that our destinies are all intertwined, and he knew that our hopes and our dreams are really all the same,” she said.

She also said she hopes that when the bells ring today, it’s a time not just to reflect on what has been done but to look forward to what remains.

“It’s an opportunity today to recall where we once were in this nation,” she said.

King saw suffering “and refused to look the other way,” she said. “We can be inspired and we too can be courageous by continuing to walk in the footsteps of the path that he forged.”

She called on those in the crowd to remind themselves “to commit to a life of service” and look to help others.

Sharpton: We must defeat ‘James Crow, Jr., Esquire’

The Rev. Al Sharpton said at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington on Wednesday that African Americans are still dealing with the legacy of Jim Crow — in the form of Voter ID laws and over-bearing police.

“We come as the children of Dr. King to say that we are going to face Jim Crow’s son,” Sharpton said. “Because he had a son called James Crow, Jr., Esquire.”Sharpton noted Voter ID laws being passed in state legislatures that minority groups argue are aimed at suppressing African Americans votes.

He also referred to New York City’s so-called “stop and frisk” policy, which a judge recently halted after finding it racially discriminatory.

“I’m come to tell you, just like our mothers and fathers beat Jim Crow, we will beat James Crow Jr., Esquire,” Sharpton said.

— Aaron Blake

Forest Whitaker: ‘Carry the torch’

Forest Whitaker, the Oscar-winning star of “The Butler,” spoke about “the small acts of heroism” people commit when they work to help others.

“This is your moment to help those silent heroes of the past,” he said. “Individuals who stood in the very spot where you stand today. You now have the responsibility to carry the torch as we gather here….Let’s create meaningful change, change we can all believe in and share.”

He implored people to work to strengthen communities and common destinies.

Jamie Foxx: ‘Renew the dream’

Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx spoke at the Lincoln Memorial a short time ago, calling on people to “renew the dream.”

Sea of umbrellas on the Mall

The rain began to fall a little harder after 1 p.m., prompting the sea of humanity lining both sides of the Reflecting Pool to transform into a colorful sea of umbrellas, my colleague Ashley Halsey III reports.

Photographs with Cardboard Obama


(Photo by Ashley Halsey III/The Washington Post)

The array of Martin Luther King T-shirts and posters on sale on the Mall today would have surprised few who walked to the mall in 1963. But the vast amount of memorabilia devoted to the first African-American president might have been a shock against the backdrop of segregated America of the 1960s.

Obama piggy banks, $10. First family tote bags, $3. First couple bags, $5. Obama posters, $10. Obama t-shirts, $10-20.

And then there was Obama himself. Two of him, if you count the cardboard cutout of the president that Catherine Nanfuka carried over her shoulder. It is identical to one she said a shopkeeper fetched from the stockroom in 2008 when Obama was a mere blip on the radar screen.

“He had Hillary out front for $10,” she said. “But he said Obama wasn’t selling, so he gave me 10 of them for free.”

Today, she could barely move 10 feet without being approached by someone who asked to be photographed with that once unwanted life-sized cutout. “It makes me so happy,” Nanfuka said. “You should see the reaction. People say ‘I can’t believe it’s free to take a picture. Here, take a dollar!” But, no, it’s free.”

Photos: The scene on the Mall today

Thousands have gathered on the Mall for the “Let Freedom Ring” ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Here are images from the Mall:

Crowds struggling to get onto Mall

Many people trying to get onto the Mall for the anniversary events are encountering long lines that are barely moving. The Post’s Julie Zauzmer reports that some waiting in a line that was hardly moving opted to leave.

It’s unclear exactly how many people are currently waiting to get onto the Mall, but The Post’s Ashley Halsey III estimates that there are several thousand gathered outside the gates.

Mayor Gray speaks at Lincoln Memorial

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) spoke at the Lincoln Memorial this morning, using the opportunity to speak out for D.C. statehood:

For more, head over to the District of Debonis.

‘We’ve come a long way’

Nannie Blakeney’s memories of racism date back to when she was a toddler. So when she was 13, Blakeney felt the need for racial justice keenly. That year, she traveled from Virginia to the March on Washington with her parents and heard about a dream.

“I thought it might come true,” she said. “We’ve come a long way. I have mixed-race grandchildren now.”

She attended today’s 50th anniversary with a large group of friends, none of whom were born yet in 1963. One of those friends, Antoine Pendleton, is 23. His cause for attending, he said, is gun control.

“I’m a black male trying to succeed out here,” said Pendleton, a recent graduate of the historically black college Taney Institute who works at a home in Pittsburgh for people with severe disabilities. “Get the guns off the street. I’m trying to make it to the 75th anniversary.”

Watch: Holmes Norton, witness to Medgar Evers’s last hours

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) was with civil rights activist Medgar Evers in the hours before he was assassinated in Jackson, Miss. in 1963.

She described that day, and how it motivated her to take in action in Washington, to On Background’s Nia-Malika Henderson. (You can see the full interview here.)

Oppressive weather greets marchers

Hot muggy weather enveloped the swelling crowd today, an oppressive contrast to the splendid sunshine of Saturday’s march and less forgiving than the day that greeted marchers 50 years ago. On Saturday, umbrellas were a shield against the sun. Today, they were protection against the rain.

“I think it’s going to clear up,” said Aijalon McMillian, 20, of New Brunswick, N.J., as his friend opened an umbrella in the sprinkling rain. “I think the sun’s going to come out.”

Mike Johnson of Southeast was betting against that. He was selling rain ponchos for $5. “The weatherman said there’s a 30 percent chance,” he said.


Robin Riddick, of Washington, waits to get through security to attend the Let Freedom Ring 50th Anniversary Celebration on the National Mall. (Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)

People react during the Let Freedom Ring 50th Anniversary Celebration on the National Mall on Wednesday. (Matt McClain/ The Washington Post)

More riders using Archives, Smithsonian Metro stops

Metro is reporting slightly lower rail ridership this morning, with telecommuting federal workers and throngs heading to the Mall combining to make it an unusual commute in the region.

The rail agency reported 268,000 trips taken by 11 a.m., down from the 270,000 at that time last Wednesday and the 278,000 at the same time Tuesday. The Office of Personnel Management advised federal workers to telecommute, which may account for the drop.

Metro recommended that people heading to the anniversary events use the Farragut North, Farragut West, Foggy Bottom and Archives stops today. All of those were in the dozen stations with the highest number of riders exiting by 11 a.m. Farragut North and Farragut West saw similar numbers of riders exiting as they logged at the same point Tuesday, while the Archives and Smithsonian stations saw a significant uptick.

Photo: Trayvon Martin’s family arrives


Trayvon Martin’s parents and brother arrive at a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech in Washington

Marching in 1963 and 2013

In 1963, Frankie Jamison took the day off from her job at the National Institutes of Health to come to the Mall with two of her colleagues. Today,  Jamison, now 73, donned her white sneakers to march again.

On the 1.7-mile walk past many federal buildings that many activists made in the rain to reach the ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, Jamison recounted the 1963 event.

“It was momentous. It was just overwhelming,” she said of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech that day. “After he spoke, then Mahalia Jackson started singing, and at that point, you could just feel it. It was just so exciting.”

The march was the first civil rights protest that Jamison attended. Since then, she has participated in several more demonstrations.

Jamison was among the marchers led by activist Van White on a morning walk to the Mall. Most attendees said that they heard about White’s event online; Jamison said she found it more credible than Saturday’s event because it happened on the actual 50th anniversary.

Interfaith leaders speak at service

At the interfaith service this morning, religious leaders spoke about the history of the civil rights movement and the messages espoused by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rabbi Julie Schonfield, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, said students at her children’s school are taught about the civil rights movement with the hope that “our children’s children live up to Dr. King’s vision and fulfill that sacred work.”

Imam Mohamed Magid, president of the Islamic Society of North America, said: “The message of Dr. King resonated me as an Imam and as a Muslim,” particularly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, said: “We can not walk alone. We must join hands and walk together.”


An interfaith service at Shiloh Baptist Church to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of The March on Washington. (Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post)

Photos: Commemorating the march’s anniversary

To mark the anniversary of the March on Washington, many people are participating in a march through downtown D.C. to the Washington Monument. Others are heading to the memorial honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Here are some images taken so far today:

Young marchers

Here’s what some young people participating in today’s march are saying:

Abiola Afolayan, 33, a lawyer and D.C. chair for Young and Powerful, a national group of young professionals participating in the anniversary March on Washington, said she is concerned about the racial disparity among the percentages of unemployed Americans. The rate of percentage of African Americans unemployed is about 4 percentage points higher than white people who are unemployed.

“The original march was to mobilize a quarter of a million people to, as Dr. King said, cash this check. The march was about economic empowerment and racial inequality,” Afolayan said. “The reason I march is it is important to continue that legacy.”

Tara Childs, 35, co-chair for Young and Powerful, said: “Growing up, when I heard of the march, it was all about Martin Luther King, but I realized it was about much, much more than that. ”

— DeNeen L. Brown

Today in 1963: Real-time updates

The @todayin1963 Twitter account, which tweets moments from the summer of 1963 as they happened, is always an interesting feed. But today it is particularly fascinating, capturing details and displaying a sense of what it was like on Aug. 28, 1963:

Remembering the bad check metaphor

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he did much more than talk about his hopes. He invoked the metaphor of a bad check, a stark metaphor that rarely occurred in King’s other public and written remarks.

The Post’s Philip Kennicott wrote about this metaphor and the overall speech  two years ago:

What is best remembered from the Dream speech is, in fact, not original to it. The thrilling incantation, the cries of “let freedom ring,” the litany of place names (the snowcapped Rockies, the molehills of Mississippi), the lines borrowed from the biblical books of Amos and Isaiah, the quotations from spirituals and patriotic songs — none of this material was original to the speech King gave on the Mall. Most of it was recycled, an impromptu decision by King to reuse some of the best applause lines he had tested in Georgia, North Carolina, Alabama and, only weeks earlier, in Detroit.


In this photo from Aug. 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses marchers during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

CNN, MSNBC to air ‘I Have A Dream’ speech

The “I Have A Dream” speech remains one of the most famous addresses in U.S. history, but we rarely see the full speech because the King estate has strongly protected its copyright.

But MSNBC and CNN are both going to broadcast the speech today, as my colleague Aaron Blake notes.

MSNBC will air the speech at 4 p.m., after President Obama’s address; CNN hasn’t noted when it will broadcast.

The weather 50 years ago

Wondering what the weather was like on the Mall during the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech? As Don Lipman at the Capital Weather Gang explains, it was actually quite pleasant.

“By Washington standards, August 28, 1963 was an extremely pleasant summer day here, with temperatures ranging between 63 and 83 degrees, no rain, and dew points in the comfortable 50s,” Lipman writes.

Head here to read the whole thing.

Meanwhile, today’s marchers need umbrellas:

Heading to the Mall? Bring an umbrella

The Capital Weather Gang reports that “on and off showers are likely into the mid-afternoon hours,” which means people heading to the Mall should expect some rain. In addition, it’s going to be very humid, so make sure you stay hydrated.


Crowds start to gather on the National Mall on Wednesday. (Marvin Joseph / The Washington Post)

Bush thanks the King family

Former President George W. Bush, in a statement issued on Wednesday morning, thanks the King family and all those working to carry on his “eternal” ideals.

“Our country has come a long way since that bright afternoon 50 years ago; yet our journey to justice is not complete,” Bush said in the statement. “Just to the East of the Lincoln Memorial, where President Obama will speak on Wednesday, stands the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. There on the National Mall our President, whose story reflects the promise of America, will help us honor the man who inspired millions to redeem that promise.”

Starting the anniversary in church

It seems fitting that the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Dream” speech began today in a church.

Attendees, ranging from clergy in flowing robes in the front pews to people wearing tennis shoes and casual dress in the balcony, flocked to the District’s Shiloh Baptist Church for a program entitled “Freedom: The Audacity to Believe.”

The Rev. Wallace Charles Smith, pastor of Shiloh, introduced the Rev. Bernice King, who preached with the passion of her father to remind people of the spiritual background of the civil rights movement.

King, who was only five months old when her fathered delivered his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, has been the one of his children to follow in his footsteps as an ordained minister.

“We as the faith community have to be the head and not the tail,” King preached. “We have to be the center in every struggle for justice, freedom and equality.”

Where is the ‘I Have A Dream’ speech now?

What happened to the speech the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. held in his hands at the March on Washington in 1963?

Cindy Boren at the Early Lead points us to this CBS News segment about George Raveling, the young security volunteer who asked King for the speech shortly after King stepped away from the podium. Raveling, who went on to become a well-known college basketball coach, says he has willed it to his children on the condition they not sell it:

Of course, actually seeing the full speech is much rarer. As Josh Schiller explains, the King estate has strongly protected that speech’s copyright.

A marriage proposal at today’s march

There is an event called the “March for Jobs and Justice” happening in downtown Washington today, with a crowd starting its walk near Union Station and progressing toward the Department of Labor, the National Archives and other spots en route to the Washington Monument:

This march has also spawned a bit of romance. My colleague Julie Zauzmer reports that a marcher named David Figari, who had planned to propose to his girlfriend Jessica Jones during a ski trip in November, instead proposed at the beginning of the march.

“I figured this would be a little more deep,” he said.

Marchers exploded in cheers for the 25-year-olds from Tampa, Fla. Figari, who is white, and Jones, who is black, said that the march was a perfect moment to mark their engagement.

“I think our relationship brings the whole idea of the march to fruition,” Figari said.

How The Post covered the 1963 March

We were poised and ready for a riot, for trouble, for unexpected events — but not for history to be made…. In that paper of Aug. 29, 1963, The Post published two dozen stories about the march. Every one missed the importance of King’s address. The words “I have a dream” appeared in only one, a wrap-up of the day’s rhetoric on Page A15 — in the fifth paragraph. We also printed brief excerpts from the speeches, but the three paragraphs chosen from King’s speech did not include “I have a dream.”

Robert G. Kaiser, associate editor of The Post, looks back at how the paper covered the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom five decades ago. Another worthwhile read about the history of the event: Marc Fisher’s story about the warnings of mayhem that preceded the march.

Looking back at the 1963 event

As the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington approached, The Post looked back at the event itself and what it meant. Here are a few stories you may have missed:

Getting to the Mall today

A large crowd is expected on the Mall this morning for events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. People heading to the Mall will have to share the roads, sidewalks and Metro with plenty of commuters, which will be complicated by road closures in the area.

Here are some traveling tips:

  • A number of roads immediately around the Lincoln Memorial will be closed, including a stretch of Rock Creek Parkway, Arlington Memorial Bridge, Independence Avenue (between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial) and 23rd Street (between Independence and Constitution avenues).
  • Metro is your best bet. Expect to see heavier crowding on trains and at stations all around the Mall. If you’re going to the events on the Mall, consider Foggy Bottom, Farragut North, Farragut West or Archives. (Smithsonian might seem logical, but the station is prone to overcrowding during such events, so you’re better off avoiding it.) And if you’re going to the March for Jobs and Justice, get off at Union Station or Judiciary Square.
  • If you are attending the ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial, you have to enter the Mall from 17th Street, just north of the World War II Memorial.

For more on what you need to know to navigate these crowds, head to Dr. Gridlock.

Mark Berman is a reporter on the National staff. He anchors Post Nation, a destination for breaking news, developing stories and quick analysis of events around the country.
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Mark Berman | August 24, 2013