Protest Marches

Posted on December 12, 2011 by


African Americans came up with many ways to battle the issues of racism. One way that African Americans dealt with the issues of racism was through nonviolent resistance such as marches. Two marches that received extensive news coverage were the march on Washington and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches.

The March on Washington for jobs and freedom took place on Wednesday August, 28th, 1963 in Washington, DC. The march started in front of the Washington monuments and ended in front of the Lincoln memorial;  250,000 people attended. The march on Washington is marked as the “largest political rally for human rights in the United States history and called for civil and economic rights for African Americans” (Wikipedia). The march pointed to specific demands such as ending racial segregation in public schools, protection of civil workers from police brutality, and a law to prohibit racial discrimination in employment.Image

The march was initiated by A. Philip Randolph then international president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters[1.]Randolph and other civil rights activists Bayard Rustin and A. J. Muste planned the march together in 1941 but it was cancelled because President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued the Fair Employment Act. Randolph finally got to see the march put together with the help of his fellow activist Martin Luther King Jr., and Bayard Rustin.

During the March on Washington Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his prominent historic speech “I Have a Dream” in front of the Lincoln memorial. The march helped with the passing of The Civil Right Act of 1964[2].

Another march that made its mark on history was the Selma-to-Montgomery marches. The marches were a series of three different marches that took place in 1965, and the main focus of these marches was to give African Americans the rights to vote.

The first march took place on March 7, 1965. That day is marked as “Bloody Sunday”. The march was led by Jon Lewis a member of SNCC[3] and reverend Hosea Williams of SCLC[4].

Six hundred protesters met up in Selma and they started to march, their protests were going fine untilImage they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge and they found a group of state troopers waiting for them. The protesters were attacked with tear gas and billy sticks and they were left bloodied and some brutally injured. The whole ordeal was televised.

After the tragedy of the first march, Martin Luther King immediately started putting together another march for March 9th, 1965. In order to protect themselves and have a peaceful march, the protestors attempted to get a court order to stop the police from interrupting their march. Instead of giving them a court order to protect them, the judge issued a restraining order to stop the march.

Martin Luther King led a “symbolic” march on the 9th. King directed about 2,500 marchers to the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where they did a prayer then headed back to Selma. After the march three white ministers who came to Selma for the march were attacked a beaten by the police. James Reeb was one that was beaten severely and he died later that evening in the hospital due to head injuries. After the death of James Reeb, on March 16th, the judge favored the protesters stating that the state of Alabama could not take away their right of their First Amendment.

The third and final march took place on March 21st, 1965. When the march began they had about 3,200 marchers; they walked about 12 miles a day and they slept in fields. By the time the protesters made it to Montgomery on Thursday March 25th, 1965 there 25,000. On August 6th, 1965 President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.


 Recent Proceedings 

On October 16th, 1995, an approximated amount of 850,000 African Americans from all over the United States gathered outside the National Mall in Washington, DC. The million man march was an all day rally promoting personal responsibility and racial solidarity[5]. The million man march was planned by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan “who called for all able-bodied African American men to come to the nation’s capital to address the ills of black communities and call for unity and revitalization of African American communities” [6]. Farrakhan also suggested that other African Americans who could not go to the march to take the day off from work and also keep their children home from school. He also wanted to prove that African American dollars had a significance to the United States, therefore he asked supporters and people who participated not to spend any money.


The Million Man march exceeded the amount of participants who took part of the March on Washington. The people who participated in the march took a public pledge to support their families, abstain from verbal or physical violence towards women and children and to give up acting violently against other men except in self defense. The participants also took a pledge to restrain from alcohol and other drugs and to focus more on building black businesses and more social and cultural organizations in their neighborhoods [7].

On April 21st, 2011 about 200 students and faculty from Penn state dressed in all black gathered together in front of college Hall for a silent protest against racism. The protest was in response to an article written by a student there. On April 10 Christopher Abreu, a student at Penn state, who also wrote the article was confronted by four students who made racist comments towards him and racial slurs.

Abreu wrote the article in order to bring attention to the racism he had faced on campus during his years there and also to examine if people of color belonged at Penn states and he also used the article as warning message for other minorities not to attend the school. In his article, He explained that his last racist confrontation was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” and that is why he published the article in the schools newspaper.

“During the protest, students remained silent to represent the silence caused by racist speech and aggressions”[8]. Also most of the students stayed muted for the rest of the day as a form of non violent protests. After the protest the protesters started a blog titled “We Belong at Penn” as an open discussion place where people can share their racial encounters with others.


Organizations against racism

  1. [9]
  2. – Anti-Racism Action[10]


One of the songs that became extremely popular during the civil rights movement is “We Shall Overcome” which is taken from a gospel song from a famous African- American composer named Charles Albert Tindley; the original name of the song is “We Will Overcome”.

Related Websites:


News Articles: The Walk on Washington


News Articles: Selma to-Montgomery Marches


[1]  The first African American labor union chartered by the American Federation of Labor.

[2] (Public Law 88-352) outlawed major forms of discrimination against African Americans and women, including racial segregation. Banned the unequal application of voter registration requirements, and discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment.

[3]Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee

[4] Southern Christian Leadership Conference

[9] ANTIRACISTALLIANCE is a movement for racial equity. We are an organizing collective of human service practitioners and educators whose vision is to bring a clear and deliberate anti-racist structural power analysis to social service education and practice.

[10] Anti-Racist Action (ARA) is an international network of people from all walks of life who are dedicated to fighting fascism, eliminating racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and hierarchy from their communities.

Page by: Michenide Augustin

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