Thousands of visitors are expected to descend on the District in the next week to observe the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which culminated at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963, with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s delivery of his watershed “I Have a Dream” speech.
But you don’t need to wait for Wednesday’s commemorative events (see Page 3) to explore Washington’s rich connections to King and the civil rights movement. Simply climb the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to feel the electric thrill of seeing where King stood on that day; linger over documentary photos of the march, on view at the Library of Congress; or join a bike tour of the sites where King spoke in Washington.
For a rundown of major anniversary-related events, including a march on Saturday that will retrace the 1963 route, visit officialmlkdream50.com.
Sites to visit
The “I Have a Dream” etching on the Lincoln Memorial
A short walk from the stern Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is a more subtle marker that is worth a stop this weekend: the few lines etched into the steps at the Lincoln Memorial that mark the place (or as close as experts could determine) where King stood to deliver his famous speech before a crowd that was estimated at 200,000 people. An act of Congress was required to make the addition to the Lincoln Memorial, and the words were added only 10 years ago, on the 40th anniversary of the march.
Washington National Cathedral
The cathedral was the site of King’s final Sunday sermon. On March 31, 1968, he delivered “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” in which he beseeched worshipers to find alternatives to violence. He was killed four days later in Memphis. The cathedral will play a recording of that sermon at 10 a.m. Sunday morning.
Wisconsin and Massachusetts avenues NW. 202-537-6200. www.cathedral.org/
Martin Luther King Jr. on the Mall bike tour
For much of the week leading up to the anniversary of the march, the National Park Service’s rangers will lead talks about the ties between Washington and the civil rights movement. Saturday’s free three-hour bike tour, for history buffs on the go, offers an in-depth look at King’s many stops in Washington, from the Willard Hotel to the Sylvan Theater on the Mall to, of course, the Lincoln Memorial, where the leader spoke not once, but twice (the first in 1957).
Starts at 2 p.m. at the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, 900 Ohio Dr. SW. www.nps.gov/nacc. Bring your own bike and helmet. Free.
The columnist for the Guardian newspaper and author of “The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream” will discuss the March on Washington with firebrand scholar Cornel West, journalist Dave Zirin and academic Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor on Saturday at Busboys and Poets’ Fifth and K streets location.
5 p.m. at Busboys and Poets, 1025 Fifth St. NW. 202-789-2227. www.busboysand
Gospel brunch at the Willard
On the night before the march, King stayed steps from the White House at the glittering Willard Hotel, where he is said to have put the final touches on his “I Have a Dream” speech. To commemorate the anniversary, the hotel will host a gospel brunch in its ballroom featuring a performance by famed opera singer Denyce Graves and a rereading of the speech, while guests are served a Southern-style meal.
Willard InterContinental Hotel, 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-637-7350. www.washington.intercontinental.com/mlk-50th-anniversary-celebration. Sunday at 11:30 a.m. $132, including tax and gratuity.
“One Life: Martin Luther King Jr.”
The National Portrait Gallery’s one-room “One Life” exhibitions are short on space but big on scope. The most recent focuses its lens on King, in photos and memorabilia, tracking his rise from community leader to worldwide figure. It also displays historic buttons and programs from the march. The exhibit will remain on display through next summer, but there’s no better time than now to see it.
11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily at the National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW. 202-633-1000. www.npg.si.edu. Free.
“A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington”
Similarly, you can step back 50 years at the Library of Congress, which has laid out this exhibition of 40 black-and-white images from the march, with photos from leading photojournalists and amateur shutterbugs.
8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily (opens Wednesday) at the Jefferson Building. 10 First St. SE. 202-707-9779. www.loc.gov/loc/events. Free.