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Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters during the March on Washington. King said the march was "the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of the United States." August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.AFP/Getty Images
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Despite the scorching hot August temperatures, some 250,000 demonstrators showed up to support civil rights.Paul Schutzer The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators walk down Constitution Avenue during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive
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An overalled couple with the New York delegation joins a crowd of protestors near the Lincoln Memorial.Paul Schutzer The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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A young Bob Dylan and Joan Baez perform at the March on Washington. "I was up close when King was giving the 'I Have a Dream' speech," Dylan later said. "To this day, it still affects me in a profound way."Wikimedia Commons
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Marchers sit by the Reflecting Pool. Since the weather was so hot during the March on Washington, many demonstrators used to pool to cool themselves off.Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos/Library Of Congress
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A scene from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. August 28, 1963.Paul Schutzer The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Civil rights activist John Lewis was just 23 when he spoke at the March on Washington, making him the youngest speaker there.Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
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Although the march included 60,000 white protestors, a 1963 poll found that 60 percent of white Americans had an unfavorable view of the demonstration. Flickr/The U.S. National Archives
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Musician Odetta Holmes performs at the March on Washington.Paul Schutzer The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Civil rights leaders pose in front of the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington.Wikimedia Commons
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A young woman with a banner at the march.Flickr/The U.S. National Archives
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The March on Washington happened 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation.Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos/Library Of Congress
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Actor Burt Lancaster speaks at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington.Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at the March on Washington. His "I Have A Dream" speech that day would go on to become one of the most famous speeches of all time.Flickr/The U.S. National Archives
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Two months before the march, President Kennedy brought civil rights leaders to the White House and tried to talk them out of having it, saying the country didn't need "a big show on the Capitol." Meanwhile, one Washington newspaper headline proclaimed that the "Vandals are coming to sack Rome."Estate of Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos (Brigitte Freed)
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The Red Cross tent at the March on Washington. The Red Cross treated over 1,000 people for heat exhaustion that day.Steve Schapiro/Corbis via Getty Images
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Aerial view of the Washington Monument and the marchers around it.Wikimedia Commons
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Civil rights leaders (from left to right) Whitney Young Jr., Martin Luther King Jr., Walter Reuther, Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, and John Lewis.Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Marchers listen to Martin Luther King Jr. give his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos/Library Of Congress
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Garbage left behind after the March on Washington.Estate of Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos (Brigitte Freed)
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Civil rights activists Andrew Young and Julian Bond link hands with other demonstrators during the March on Washington.LIFE Photo Collection
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Charlton Heston, James Baldwin, and Marlon Brando at the March on Washington.TIME
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Of the estimated 250,000 demonstrators, 190,000 of them were Black and 60,000 of them were white.Robert W. Kelley/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
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Just one section of the crowd at the historic March on Washington.Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos
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Young marchers on the grounds of the Washington Monument.Library Of Congress
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Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the March on Washington. August 28, 1963. Washington, D.C.Francis Miller The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Photography played a crucial role in raising awareness of the civil rights movement, especially during demonstrations like the March on Washington.Estate of Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos (Brigitte Freed)
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Marchers joining hands in front of the Lincoln Memorial.Library Of Congress
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People traveled by planes, trains, cars, and buses from all over the country to attend the March on Washington.Estate of Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos (Brigitte Freed)
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The march attracted protestors of all ages.Estate of Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos (Brigitte Freed)
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The march was the largest gathering for civil rights of its time. From speeches to songs to conversations, the demonstration touched souls all across the nation.Paul Schutzer The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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To this day, the March on Washington remains an inspiration to countless Americans who want to make the world a better place.Paul Schutzer The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
33 Powerful Photos Of The March On Washington That Changed Civil Rights In America
On August 28, 1963, an estimated 250,000 people gathered in Washington, D.C. for the March on Washington. The historic demonstration demanded civil rights and economic rights for African Americans as they struggled to achieve true equality in the United States.
Although Black people were no longer enslaved in America as they had been in the 1800s, many of them still found themselves victims of injustice and discrimination. Not only did Black people suffer under the pervasive Jim Crow laws in the South, they also struggled with poverty, perennial joblessness, and second-class citizenship all over the country.
Many African Americans also faced horrific violence due to police brutality and racist white mobs. It was especially common for Black civil rights activists to experience these traumatic incidents.
But despite the many hurdles they faced, civil rights leaders came together to create the March on Washington on that incredible day in 1963. Little did they know that it would become one of the most famous — and most revered — events in American history. See some of the most memorable moments from the march in the slideshow above.
A Closer Look At The March On Washington
National ArchivesMartin Luther King Jr. giving his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C.
While the March on Washington is mostly remembered today for Martin Luther King Jr.'s iconic "I Have A Dream" speech, that speech as we know it almost didn't happen. In fact, his adviser Wyatt Walker specifically warned him against using those words: "Don't use the lines about 'I have a dream.' It's trite, it's cliche. You've used it too many times already."
Apparently following Walker's advice, King didn't include those words in the original draft of the speech. But when King approached the podium to speak that August day, there was one critical figure standing behind him: gospel singer Mahalia Jackson.
Although King initially stuck to his script of prepared remarks, he paused about midway though his speech and looked out toward the crowd. And that's when Jackson cried out, "Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream." It was only after that moment that King went off-script — and delivered the most iconic lines of the day.
While both the speech and the march are considered powerful moments from American history today, both were extremely controversial at the time. A 1963 poll found that 60 percent of white Americans had an unfavorable view of Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington.
Even after the march — by all accounts a peaceful demonstration — a 1966 poll found that 63 percent of Americans had a negative view of Martin Luther King Jr. in general. But even though the March on Washington didn't unite all Americans when it was actually happening, it was undeniably an important stepping stone for the civil rights movement.
Remembering The 1963 March On Washington
In 1964, the Civil Rights Act was passed, and in 1965, the Voting Rights Act was passed as well. Both were strongly believed to have been the results of the 1963 march.
The March on Washington was an incredible result of extensive planning, peaceful perseverance, and courage on behalf of civil rights activists.
While King's speech remains the most famous one of the day, many other notable civil rights activists participated as well. Freedom Rider John Lewis was one of them. Just 23 years old at the time, the future congressman was the youngest speaker there and more than ready to bring his activism to the forefront.
Now, almost 60 years later, much has been achieved thanks to the civil rights movement. While the fight for equality continues to this day — especially in regard to police brutality and discrimination — it's clear that the civil rights movement changed America forever.