33 Powerful Photos Of The March On Washington That Changed Civil Rights In America

Published August 28, 2013
Updated November 9, 2023

On August 28, 1963, some 250,000 civil rights activists gathered in Washington, D.C. to demand racial equality during the March on Washington. Here are some of the most memorable photos from that day.

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33 Powerful Photos Of The March On Washington That Changed Civil Rights In America
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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

Martin Luther King Jr

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.

After you view these captivating photos of the 1963 March on Washington, read the full story behind the March on Washington. Then, learn some fascinating facts about Martin Luther King Jr.

Jaclyn Anglis
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.
John Kuroski
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.