I am excited about the 50th anniversary celebration of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. While I was not yet born when the original march took place, I have spent countless hours reading and researching the events that led up to it, as well as what followed.
From a historical perspective, I feel the march can be considered the spark that ignited the civil rights movement, helping to make the case for equality before the American people. Seeing the photos and videos of more than 250,000 peaceful demonstrators converging on the nation's capital chanting and singing and demanding jobs and freedom in the August heat has always mesmerized me.
What stands out is how the march led to the transformation of the American political and social structure. On the heels of the march, President Lyndon Johnson committed to pushing for a strong civil rights agenda and was able to press Congress into passing three of the most important pieces of legislation in our nation's history: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (Fair Housing Act). These remedied several demands from 1963 to move America forward faster than ever before.
However, in 2013 it is safe to say that we find ourselves in what A. Philip Randolph, the original organizer of the 1963 march, called the "crisis of victory." Those of us who advocate for civil rights find ourselves facing many of the same battles that those who marched on Washington in 1963 faced. If we are to build on the progress that was made then we must be prepared to do as they did. We must march in 2013 with the same vigor; the difference this year is we will march to fulfill the dream that Dr. King envisioned.
Jamaal L. Craig of Green Tree works in the Civil Rights Department of the United Steelworkers. First Published August 25, 2013 4:00 AM