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March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
View from the Lincoln Memorial toward the Washington Monument on August 28, 1963
Date August 28, 1963 (1963-08-28)
Location Washington, D.C.
Also known as March on Washington
Participants 200,000 to 300,000 (estimated 250,000 people)
Litigation Civil Rights Act of 1964

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the March on Washington, or The Great March on Washington as styled in a sound recording released after the event,[1][2] was one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history[3] and called for civil and economic rights for African Americans. It took place in Washington, D.C..Thousands of Americans headed to Washington on Tuesday August 27, 1963. On Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr., standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech in which he called for an end to racism.[4]

The march was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations,[5] under the theme "jobs, and freedom".[3] Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 to 300,000;[6] it is widely accepted that approximately 250,000 people participated in the march.[7] Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black.[8]

The march is credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964)[9][10] and preceded the Selma Voting Rights Movement which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act (1965).[11]


  • Background 1
  • Planning and organization 2
  • Convergence 3
    • Security preparations 3.1
    • Sound system 3.2
  • The March 4
  • Speakers 5
    • Official program 5.1
    • Roy Wilkins 5.2
    • John Lewis 5.3
    • Martin Luther King, Jr. 5.4
    • Randolph and Rustin 5.5
    • Excluded speakers 5.6
  • Singers 6
  • Meeting with President Kennedy 7
  • Media coverage 8
  • Responses and memories 9
    • Organizers 9.1
    • Critics 9.2
    • Participants 9.3
  • Effects and legacy 10
    • Political effects 10.1
    • Anniversary marches 10.2
    • Postal stamp 10.3
    • Issues 10.4
  • Gallery 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14


Bayard Rustin (left) and Cleveland Robinson (right), organizers of the March, on August 7, 1963

Although African Americans had been legally freed from slavery, elevated to the status of citizens and the men given full voting rights at the end of the American Civil War, many continued to face economic and political repression. A system of legal discrimination, known as Jim Crow laws, were pervasive in the American South, ensuring that Black Americans remained second-class citizens. They experienced discrimination from businesses and governments, and in some places were prevented from voting through intimidation and violence.[12] Twenty-one states prohibited interracial marriage.[13]

The impetus for a march on Washington developed over a long period of time, and earlier efforts to organize such a demonstration included the March on Washington Movement of the 1940s. A. Philip Randolph—the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, president of the Negro American Labor Council,[6] and vice president of the AFL-CIO—was a key instigator in 1941. With Bayard Rustin, Randolph called for 10,000 black workers to march on Washington, in protest of discriminatory hiring by U.S. military contractors and demanding an Executive Order.[14] Faced with a mass march scheduled for July 1, 1941, President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8802 on June 25.[15] The order established the Committee on Fair Employment Practice and banning discriminatory hiring in the defense industry.[16] Randolph called off the March.[17]

Randolph and Rustin continued to organize around the idea of a mass march on Washington. They envisioned several large marches during the 1940s, but all were called off (despite criticism from Rustin).[18] Their Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom, held at the Lincoln Memorial on May 17, 1957, featured key leaders including Adam Clayton Powell, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Roy Wilkins. Mahalia Jackson performed.[19]

The 1963 march was an important part of the rapidly expanding Civil Rights Movement, which involved demonstrations and nonviolent direct action across the United States.[20] 1963 also marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln. Members of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference put aside their differences and came together for the march. Many whites and blacks also came together in the urgency for change in the nation.

Violent confrontations broke out in the South: in Cambridge, Maryland; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Goldsboro, North Carolina; Somerville, Tennessee; Saint Augustine, Florida; and across Mississippi. Most of these incidents involved white people retaliating against nonviolent demonstrators.[21] Many people wanted to march on Washington, but disagreed over how the march should be conducted. Some called for a complete shutdown of the city through civil disobedience. Others argued that the movement should remain nationwide in scope, rather than focus its energies on the capitol.[22] There was widespread perception that the Kennedy administration had not lived up to its promises in the 1960 election; King described Kennedy's race policy as "tokenism".[23]

The public failure of the Baldwin–Kennedy meeting on May 24, 1963, underscored the divide between the needs of Black America and the understanding of Washington politicians. But it also provoked the Kennedys to action on the civil rights issue.[24] On June 11, President John F. Kennedy gave his famous civil rights address on national television and radio, announcing that he would begin to push for civil rights legislation—the law which eventually became the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That night, Mississippi activist Medgar Evers was murdered in his own driveway, further escalating national tension around the issue of racial equality.[25]

Planning and organization

A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin began planning the march in December 1962. They envisioned two days of protest, including sit-ins and lobbying followed by a mass rally at the Lincoln Memorial. They wanted to focus on joblessness and to call for a public works program that would employ blacks. In early 1963 they called publicly for "a massive March on Washington for jobs".[26] They received help from

  • John Lewis's speech
  • The short film "The March on Washington (1963)" is available for free download at the Internet Archive
  • The March, 1963, from the National Archives YouTube Channel
  • Eyes on the Prize March on Washington video page, PBS, retrieved 2010-09-19 


  • March on Washington – King Encyclopedia, Stanford University
  • March on Washington August 28, 1963 ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  • March on Washington, WDAS History
  • The 1963 March on Washington - slideshow by Life magazine
  • Original Program for the March on Washington
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech at the March
  • Annotated text of John Lewis's original speech with changes

External links

  • Jones, William P. The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights (W.W. Norton; 2013) 296 pages;
  • Saunders, Doris E.. The Day They Marched (Johnson Publishing Company; 1963)
  • Lyon, Danny (1992). Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.  

Further reading

  • Bass, Patrick Henry. Like a Mighty Stream: The March on Washington, August 28, 1963. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2002. ISBN 0-7624-1292-5
  • Barber, Lucy G. Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition University of California Press, 2002. ISBN 0-520-22713-1
  • Leonard Freed, This Is the Day: The March on Washington, Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2013; ISBN 978-1-60606-121-3.
  • Marable, Manning; Leith Mullings (2002). Freedom: A Photographic History of the African American Struggle. Phaidon Press.  
  • Euchner, Charles. Nobody Turn Me Around: A People's History of the March on Washington. Boston: Beacon Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-8070-0059-5
  • Garrow, David. Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. William Morrow and Company, 1986. ISBN 0-688-04794-7
  • Tuttle, Kate (1999). "March on Washington, 1963". In Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates (eds.). Africana: the Encyclopedia of the African and African American experience. Basic Civitas Books.  
  • Jones, William P. The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights. Norton, 2013. ISBN 9780393240580
  • Williams, Juan (1987). Eyes on the prize: America's civil rights years, 1954-1965. New York, NY: Viking.  


  1. ^ Ward, Brian (April 1998). "Recording the Dream".  
  2. ^ King III, Martin Luther (2010-08-25). "Still striving for MLK's dream in the 21st century". The Washington Post (Washington, DC).  
  3. ^ a b Bayard Rustin Papers (1963-08-28), March on Washington (Program), National Archives and Records Administration, retrieved 2013-05-21 
  4. ^  
  5. ^ a b c "March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom". Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C.: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Mathew Ahmann, Executive Director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice, in a Crowd".  
  7. ^ Hansen, D, D. (2003). The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation. New York, NY: Harper Collins. p. 177.
  8. ^ "50th Anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Panel Discussion at the Black Archives of Mid-America" (press release). The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. August 7, 2013. Retrieved July 27, 2014. 
  9. ^ NewsHour Extra: The March on Washington and Its Impact - Lesson Plan
  10. ^ An important goal of the 1963 March on Washington remains unfulfilled - The Hill's Congress Blog
  11. ^ Weinstein, Allen (2002). The Story of America: Freedom and Crisis from Settlement to Superpower. DK Publishing, Inc. 
  12. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), pp. 31, 34–36.
  13. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 128.
  14. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), pp. 44–46.
  15. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), pp. 49–51.
  16. ^ Neil A. Wynn, "The Impact of the Second World War on the American Negro"; Journal of Contemporary History 6(2), 1971; p. 46.
  17. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), pp. 51–52.
  18. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 16–17.
  19. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 75.
  20. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 142. "In 1963, however, the March on Washington was but one aspect of a national explosion of actions against racial discrimination that many criticized as being outside traditional politics. [...] In the South after 1960, the widespread adoption of direct action—purposeful defiance of segregation laws and injunctions against demonstrations—inspired activists and attracted new attention from the media, the federal government, and white segregationists."
  21. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. xvi. "Violence swept the South all year. Vigilantes in Clarksdale firebombed the home of Aaron Henry, the head of Mississippi's NAACP. After a gas bomb went off in a church in Itta Bena, Mississippi, mobs threw bottles and rocks at activists spilling onto the streets. Vigilantes shot into the home of college professors helping the movement in Jackson. A civil rights worker traveling from Itta Bena to Jackson was shot in the neck and shoulder. A bomb destroyed a two-family home in Jackson. Whites in the North Carolina town of Goldsboro ran down demonstrators in a car and threw bottles and rocks. Whites in Pine Bluff, in Arkansas, attacked civil rights workers with ammonia and bottles. Someone shot into the home of an NAACP board member in Saint Augustine. When nine activists prayed in a country courthouse in Somerville, Tennessee, police allowed hoodlums into the building to beat them up."
  22. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 2.
  23. ^ a b c Bruce Bartlett, "The 1963 March on Washington Changed Politics Forever"; The Fiscal Times, 9 August 2013.
  24. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 120–121. "In the TV interview, Baldwin was ashen, disoriented. He had had no idea, before now, just how aloof the Kennedys were. He thought the administration's caution came from ruthless political calculation. But now it seemed that the pampered sons of old Joe Kennedy just had no idea—no understanding at all—about race in America. The secret meeting was immediately leaked to the press. Within weeks, the velocity of the civil rights movement would lead President John F. Kennedy to give the most aggressive presidential address in history on race, which was quickly followed with the most comprehensive legislation in modern history.
  25. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), pp. 67–69.
  26. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 144.
  27. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 17. "By going to the old Communists and socialists, Arnowitz later recalled, Rustin hoped to 'outflank Kennedy's labor connections' and King's moderate, nonviolent SCLC. If Rustin went to Kennedy's backers, they would report to the president. Later, in fact, when United Auto Workers joined the march effort, UAW people fed inside intelligence to the White House. In the earliest planning stages, in 1962, it was better to steer clear of Kennedy's financial and political network."
  28. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 20.
  29. ^ a b Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 21.
  30. ^ David J. Garrow, "The Long March ‘The March on Washington,’ by William P. Jones"; New York Times, 15 August 2013.
  31. ^ a b c d William P. Jones, "The Forgotten Radical History of the March on Washington"; Dissent, Spring 2013.
  32. ^ Ivan VanSertima, Great black leaders: ancient and modern; Journal of African Civilizations, 1988; p. 44.
  33. ^ Garrow, Bearing the Cross (1986), pp. 269–270.
  34. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), pp. 66–67.
  35. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 22. "That plan—the elder statesman as director, the controversial organizer as the details man—broke the tension. Randolph got his deputy, but Wilkins warned Randolph that he was responsible for any controversy. He had to take the heat. And he had to control his protogé."
  36. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), pp. 147–148.
  37. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 149.
  38. ^ Branch 1988, p. 872.
  39. ^ Euchner, Charles, "Nobody Turn Me Around: A People's History of the 1963 March on Washington", 2010.
  40. ^ Branch 1988, p. 871.
  41. ^ a b Branch 1988, p. 874.
  42. ^ a b c d e Getting to the March on Washington, August 28, 1963 - The Road to Civil Rights - Highway History - FHWA
  43. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), pp. 156–157.
  44. ^ a b c Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 151.
  45. ^ a b Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 156.
  46. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 159.
  47. ^ Garrow, Bearing the Cross (1986), p. 278. "Throughout the mid-July Senate hearings on the civil rights bill, segregationist spokesmen such as Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett repeatedly made wild accusations that the civil rights movement was a Communist conspiracy, allegations that were reported under headlines such as BARNETT CHARGES KENNEDYS ASSIST RED RACIAL PLOT. Several senators asked the FBI and Justice Department to respond to these claims, and on July 25, Attorney General Robert Kennedy released a carefully worded statement to the effect that no civil rights leaders were 'Communists or Communist-controlled'. That same day, the Atlanta Constitution, aided by another FBI leak, revealed that Jack O'Dell had continued to frequent SCLC's New York office even after his 'permanent' resignation four weeks earlier."
  48. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 57. "The FBI attempted to exploit fears about violence and Communist infiltration of the civil rights movement—fears that were partly the result of J. Edgar Hoover's long campaign against the movement. FBI agents made last minute-calls to celebrities. Do you know, the agents asked, that many of the march's leaders are Communists? Do you know that Communists and other leftists could create chaos at the march? Do you know that it's not too late to pull out of the march? Stay away!"
  49. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 57–58.
  50. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 116.
  51. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 71.
  52. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 63–65.
  53. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 73.
  54. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 161.
  55. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 81.
  56. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 25.
  57. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 43–44.
  58. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 24.
  59. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 150. "In coordination with the Kennedy administration, the police department proposed to keep on duty all police officers on August 28 and to commission firefighters and the police reserve as temporary officers. In addition, they decided to mobilize 2,000 National Guardsmen preemptively. Likewise, the Kennedy administration planned to turn out every Capitol, White House, and Park Police officer and arranged to supplement the 1,000 soldiers in the area with 3,000 additional men."
  60. ^ a b c Branch, Taylor (1998). Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963–65. Simon & Schuster. p. 132.  
  61. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 28. "The army's plan, in the event of a civil disturbance, was to roar 320 miles north into Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and then send soldiers to the Mall by helicopter to battle the violence. The soldiers would break the mob into wedges, isolate and subdue the most violent elements, and protect the peaceable protestors. [...] The soldiers at Fort Bragg were part of Operation Steep Hill, a joint battle plan of the White House, the Justice Department, the Pentagon, and the Washington Metropolitan Police."
  62. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 160.
  63. ^
  64. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 60–62.
  65. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 102.
  66. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 101. "During that training, Julius Hobson emphasized the dangers posed by the FBI. Agent provocateurs would spread all over the Mall, looking for opportunities to start fights, Hobson said. The major task of the volunteer security guards, then, was to spot those agents and alert someone before any fights started. No one knew it at the time, but Hobson was a paid informant for the FBI.
  67. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 8–9.
  68. ^ White, Bay, and Martin Jr, Deborah Gray, Mia, and Waldo E (2013). Freedom on my Mind: African Americans and the New Century, 200- Present. New York: Bedford, Boston/ St.Martin’s. p. 667. 
  69. ^ Branch 1988, p. 876.
  70. ^ a b c
  71. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 165. "In the midst of one of these meetings, the leaders were disturbed to learn the marchers had begun their spontaneous march. Breaking off their meeting, they rushed to Constitution Avenue, already filled with marchers. There, anxious aides cleared a space so the ten leaders could link arms as though they were at the head of the crowd. Then the photographers and filmmakers shot pictures of the leaders 'leading the march' (fig. 25)."
  72. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 164.
  73. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 162.
  74. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 130–131.
  75. ^ Current biography yearbook. H. W. Wilson Company. 1965. p. 121. 
  76. ^ a b
  77. ^ a b
  78. ^ a b c "9 things about Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech, March on Washington -". CNN. August 28, 2013. 
  79. ^ Garrow, Bearing the Cross (1986), p. 283. "Two Kennedy aides stood ready to 'pull the plug' on the public address system in case anything went amiss."
  80. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 122.
  81. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 180–181.
  82. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 183.
  83. ^ Doak, Robin Santos (2007). The March on Washington: Uniting Against Racism. Capstone. p. 69.  
  84. ^ Full Text of John Lewis' Speech ~ Civil Rights Movement Veterans
  85. ^ Lewis, John; Michael D'Orso (1998). Walking With the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  
  86. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 45–49.
  87. ^ Garrow, Bearing the Cross (1986), pp. 282–283. "With the program only minutes away, the leadership arrived at the Lincoln Memorial with the controversy over Lewis's text still unresolved. Rustin promised O'Boyle that the necessary changes would be made, and the cardinal agreed to appear on the platform and deliver the invocation, so long as he was handed a copy of the revised Lewis text at least ten minutes before the SNCC chairman's appearance. O'Boyle told Rustin that if it were unsatisfactory, or if Lewis delivered the original draft, he and other religious leaders would get up and leave."
  88. ^ Carson, Clayborne (1981). In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s. Harvard University Press. 
  89. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), pp. 169–170.
  90. ^ Hansen, D. The Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Speech that Inspired a Nation (2003) p. 177
  91. ^ a b c
  92. ^ See Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963.
  93. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 126.
  94. ^ Garrow, Bearing the Cross (1986), p. 284.
  95. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 171.
  96. ^ Talia Whyte, "Baldwin: A literary standard"; Baystate Banner 43(27), 14 February 2008.
  97. ^ Herb Boyd, Baldwin's Harlem: A Biography of James Baldwin; New York: Atria, 2008; p. 70.
  98. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 158.
  99. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), pp. 109, 111.
  100. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 108.
  101. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 159.
  102. ^ Jones, March on Washington (2013), p. online.
  103. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 109.
  104. ^ David Hajdu, Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina; New York: Picador, 2001; ISBN 9781429961769; p. 201
  105. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 172.
  106. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 94.
  107. ^ Reeves, Richard, President Kennedy: Profile of Power (1993) pp. 580–584
  108. ^ "The March on Washington and Television News," by William Thomas
  109. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 175.
  110. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 70.
  111. ^ a b Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), pp. 176–178.
  112. ^  
  113. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 16.
  114. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), p. 153. "Segregationists and black nationalists launched scathing criticisms of the Kennedy administration for its support. For rabid segregationist Representative W.J. Bryan Dorn, a Democrat from South Carolina, the absurdity was that 'for the first time in the history of our Nation . . . the Federal government has itself encouraged a "march on Washington."'"
  115. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 95.
  116. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 142.
  117. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 38.
  118. ^ Richard D. Brown, "March On Washington Was Day To Remember — And Relive The Bus, Henry Armstrong — And The Work Left Undone"; Hartford Courant, 16 August 2013.
  119. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 24–25.
  120. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 72.
  121. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), pp. 81–82.
  122. ^ Bass, Like a Mighty Stream (2002), p. 101.
  123. ^ a b DeWayne Wickham, "Rustin finally getting due recognition"; Pacific Daily News, 15 August 2013.
  124. ^ Euchner, Nobody Turn Me Around (2010), p. 89
  125. ^ Bruce Bartlett, "How the March on Washington Flipped the Southern Vote"; Fiscal Times, 16 August 1963.
  126. ^ Barber, Marching on Washington (2002), pp. 173–174.
  127. ^ "New stamp commemorates 1963 March on Washington". CBS News. Retrieved 24 August 2013. 
  128. ^ "King's unfinished work", Philadelphia Inquirer, 16 August 2013.
  129. ^ Freddie Allen, "Upcoming Washington March should again focus on jobs", Madison Times (NNPA), 14 August 2013.
  130. ^ Algernon Austin, "The Unfinished March: An Overview"; Economic Policy Institute Report, 18 June 2013.
  131. ^ Dedrick Muhammad, "50 Years After the March On Washington: The Economic Impacts on Education"; Huffington Post, 13 August 2013.



See also


Dedrick Muhammad of the NAACP writes that racial inequality of income and homeownership have increased since 1963 and worsened during the recent Great Recession.[131]

In 2013, the Economic Policy Institute launched a series of reports around the theme of "The Unfinished March". These reports analyze the goals of the original march and assess how much progress has been made.[128][129] They echo the message of Randolph and Rustin that civil rights cannot transform people's quality of life unless accompanied by economic justice. They contend that many of the March's primary goals—including housing, integrated education, and widespread employment at living wages—have not been accomplished. They further argued that although legal advances were made, black people still live in concentrated areas of poverty ("ghettoes"), where they receive inferior education and suffer from widespread unemployment.[130]


For the 50th Anniversary, the United States Postal Service released a forever stamp that commemorates the 1963 March on Washington. The stamp shows marchers near the Washington Monument with signs calling for equal rights and jobs for all.[127]

Postal stamp

At the 2013 anniversary march, President Barack Obama conferred a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom on Bayard Rustin and 15 others.[31][123]

The 1963 March also spurred anniversary marches that occur every five years, with the 20th and 25th being some of the most well known. The 25th Anniversary theme was "We Still have a Dream...Jobs*Peace*Freedom."[126]

50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom

Anniversary marches

The cooperation of a Democratic administration with the issue of civil rights marked a pivotal moment in voter alignment within the U.S. The Democratic Party gave up the Solid South—its undivided support since Reconstruction among the segregated Southern states—and went on to capture a high proportion of votes from blacks from the Republicans.[23][125]

The March is credited with propelling the U.S. government into action on civil rights, creating political momentum for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.[23]

Soon after the speakers ended their meetings with Congress to go join the March, both houses passed legislation to create a dispute arbitration board for striking railroad workers.[124]

Political effects

The mass media identified King's speech as a highlight of the event and focused on this oration to the exclusion of other aspects. For several decades, King took center stage in narratives about the March. More recently, historians and commentators have acknowledged the role played by Bayard Rustin in organizing the event.[123]

The symbolism of the March has been contested since before it even took place. In the years following the March, movement radicals increasingly subscribed to Malcolm X's narrative of the March as a co-optation by the white establishment. Liberals and conservatives tended to embrace the March, but focused mostly on King's "I Have a Dream" speech and the legislative successes of 1964 and 1965.[31]

Effects and legacy

Some people discussed racism becoming less explicit after the March. Reverend Abraham Woods of Birmingham commented: "Everything has changed. And when you look at it, nothing has changed. Racism is under the surface, and an incident that could scratch it, can bring it out."[122]

I saw people laughing and listening and standing very close to one another, almost in an embrace. Children of every size, pregnant women, elderly people who seemed tired but happy to be there, clothing that made me know that they struggled to make it day to day, made me know they worked in farms or offices or even nearby for the government. I didn't see teenagers alone; I saw groups of teenagers with teachers.
White people [were] standing in wonder. Their eyes were open, they were listening. Openness and nothing on guard—I saw that in everybody. I was so happy to see that in the white people that they could listen and take in and respect and believe in the words of a black person. I had never seen anything like that.

Marcher Beverly Alston thought that the day had its greatest impact within the movement: "Culturally, there has been tremendous progress over the past forty years. Black awareness and self-determination has soared. Politically, I just don't think we've made enough progress."[120] Fifteen-year-old Ericka Jenkins from Washington said:[121]

It's like St. Patrick's Day. I came out of respect for what my people are doing, not because I believe it will do any good. I thought it would do some good in the beginning. But when the march started to get all the official approval from Mastah Kennedy, Mastah Wagner, Mastah Spellman, and they started setting limits on how we had to march peacefully, I knew that the march was going to be a mockery, that they were giving us something again.

Other participants, more sympathetic to Malcolm X and the black nationalists, expressed ambivalence. One marcher from New York explained:[119]

Richard Brown, then a white graduate student at Harvard University, recalls that the March fostered direct actions for economic progress: "Henry Armstrong and I compared notes. I realized the Congress of Racial Equality might help black employment in Boston by urging businesses to hire contractors like Armstrong. He agreed to help start a list of reliable contractors that CORE could promote. It was a modest effort — but it moved in the right direction."[118]

Many participants said they felt the March was a historic and life-changing experience. Nan Grogan Orrock, a student at Mary Washington College, said: "You couldn't help but get swept up in the feeling of the March. It was an incredible experience of this mass of humanity with one mind moving down the street. It was like being part of a glacier. You could feel the sense of collective will and effort in the air."[116] SNCC organizer Bob Zellner reported that the event "provided dramatic proof that the sometimes quiet and always dangerous work we did in the Deep South had had a profound national impact. The spectacle of a quarter of a million supporters and activists gave me an assurance that the work I was in the process of dedicating my life to was worth doing."[117]


Segregationists including William Jennings Bryan Dorn criticized the government for cooperating with the civil rights activists.[114] Senator Olin D. Johnston rejected an invitation to attend, writing: "You are committing the worst possible mistake in promoting this March. You should know that criminal, fanatical, and communistic elements, as well as crackpots, will move in to take every advantage of this mob. You certainly will have no influence on any member of Congress, including myself."[115]

[111] But the membership of SNCC, increasingly frustrated with the tactics of the NAACP and other moderate groups, gradually embraced Malcolm X's position.[113] One SNCC staffer commented during the march, "He's denouncing us as clowns, but he's right there with the clown show."[112]


Although the mass media generally declared the March successful because of its high turnout, organizers were not confident that it would create change. Randolph and Rustin abandoned their belief in the effectiveness of marching on Washington. King maintained faith that action in Washington could work, but determined that future marchers would need to call greater attention to economic injustice. In 1967–1968, he organized a Poor People's Campaign to occupy the National Mall with a shantytown.[111]


Responses and memories

[110] Commented Michael Thelwell of SNCC: "So it happened that Negro students from the South, some of whom still had unhealed bruises from the electric cattle prods which Southern police used to break up demonstrations, were recorded for the screens of the world portraying 'American Democracy at Work.'"[44] The

Media attention gave the march national exposure, carrying the organizers' speeches and offering their own commentary. In his section The March on Washington and Television News, William Thomas notes: "Over five hundred cameramen, technicians, and correspondents from the major networks were set to cover the event. More cameras would be set up than had filmed the last Presidential inauguration. One camera was positioned high in the Washington Monument, to give dramatic vistas of the marchers".[108] The major networks broadcast some of the March live, though they interspersed footage of interviews with politicians. Subsequent broadcasts focused heavily on the "I have a dream" portion of King's speech.[109]

Media coverage

After the March, the speakers traveled to the White House for a brief discussion of proposed civil rights legislation with President Kennedy.[105] Kennedy had watched King's speech on TV and was very impressed. According to biographer [106] The March was considered a "triumph of managed protest" and Kennedy felt it was a victory for him as well—bolstering the chances for his civil rights bill.[107]

Kennedy meets with march leaders

Meeting with President Kennedy

Some participants, including Dick Gregory criticized the choice of mostly white performers and the lack of group participation in the singing.[103] Dylan himself said he felt uncomfortable as a white man serving as a public image for the Civil Rights Movement. After the March on Washington, he performed at few other immediately politicized events.[104]

Peter, Paul and Mary sang "If I Had a Hammer" and Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind". Odetta sang "I'm On My Way".[42]

Joan Baez led the crowds in several verses of "We Shall Overcome" and "Oh Freedom". Musician Bob Dylan performed "When the Ship Comes In", for which he was joined by Baez. Dylan also performed "Only a Pawn in Their Game", a provocative and not completely popular choice because it asserted that Byron de la Beckwith, as a poor white man, was not personally or primarily to blame for the murder of Medgar Evers.[102]

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan performing at the March

Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson sang "How I Got Over", and Marian Anderson sang "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands". This was not Marian Anderson's first appearance at the Lincoln Memorial. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. With the aid of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and her husband Franklin D. Roosevelt, Anderson performed a critically acclaimed open-air concert on Easter Sunday, 1939, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.


Early plans for the March would have included an "Unemployed Worker" as one of the speakers. This position was eliminated, furthering criticism of the March's middle-class bias.[101]

The assembled group agreed that Myrlie Evers, the new widow of Medgar Evers, could speak during the "Tribute to Women". However, Mrs. Evers was unavailable.[99][100] [70]

In light of the role of Negro women in the struggle for freedom and especially in light of the extra burden they have carried because of the castration of our Negro men in this culture, it is incredible that no woman should appear as a speaker at the historic March on Washington Meeting at the Lincoln Memorial. . .

Despite the protests of organizer [98] Hedgeman read a statement at an August 16 meeting, charging:

In my view, by that time, there was, on the one hand, nothing to prevent—the March had already been co-opted—and, on the other, no way of stopping the people from descending on Washington. What struck me most horribly was that virtually no one in power (including some blacks or Negroes who were somewhere next door to power) was able, even remotely, to accept the depth, the dimension, of the passion and the faith of the people.

Author James Baldwin was prevented from speaking at the March on the grounds that his comments would be too inflammatory.[96] Baldwin later commented on the irony of the "terrifying and profound" requests that he prevent the March from happening:[97]

Excluded speakers

Randolph also closed the event along with Bayard Rustin. Rustin followed King's speech by slowly reading the list of demands.[94] The two concluded by urging attendees to take various actions in support of the struggle.[95]

A. Philip Randolph spoke first, promising: "we shall return again and again to Washington in ever growing numbers until total freedom is ours."[93]

Randolph and Rustin

The speech given by SCLC president King, who spoke last, became known as the "[91][92] Over time it has been hailed as a masterpiece of rhetoric, added to the National Recording Registry and memorialized by the National Park Service with an inscription on the spot where King stood to deliver the speech.

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivering his "I Have a Dream" speech

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lewis added a qualified endorsement of the civil rights legislation, saying: "It is true that we support the administration's Civil Rights Bill. We support it with great reservation, however."[31] Even after toning down his speech, Lewis called for activists to "get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet of this nation until true freedom comes".[89]

The dispute continued until minutes before talks were scheduled to begin. Under threat of public denouncement by the religious leaders, and under pressure from the rest of his coalition, Lewis agreed to omit the 'inflammatory' passages.[87] Many activists from SNCC, CORE, and even SCLC were angry at what they considered censorship of his speech.[88]

Copies of the SNCC speech were distributed on August 27, and met with immediate disapproval from many of the organizers. Archbishop Patrick O'Boyle objected most strenuously to a part of the speech that called for immediate action and disavowed "patience". The government (and more moderate civil rights leaders) could not countenance SNCC's explicit opposition of Kennedy's civil rights bill. That night, O'Boyle and other members of the Catholic delegation began preparing a statement announcing their withdrawal from the March. Reuther convinced them to wait and called Rustin; Rustin informed Lewis at 2 A.M. on August 28 that his speech was unacceptable to key members of the March. (Rustin also reportedly contacted Tom Kahn, mistakenly believing that Kahn had edited the speech and inserted the line about Sherman's March to the Sea. Rustin asked, "How could you do this? Do you know what Sherman did?) But Lewis did not want to change the speech. Other members of SNCC, including Stokely Carmichael, were also adamant that the speech not be censored.[86]

John Lewis speaking in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress on the 50th anniversary, August 28, 2013
In good conscience, we cannot support wholeheartedly the administration's civil rights bill, for it is too little and too late. ... I want to know, which side is the federal government on?... The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the streets and put it into the courts. Listen, Mr. Kennedy. Listen, Mr. Congressman. Listen, fellow citizens. The black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won't be a "cooling-off" period. ...We will march through the South, through the heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own scorched earth policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground—nonviolently...

John Lewis of SNCC was the youngest speaker at the event.[83] His speech—which a number of SNCC activists had helped write—took the Administration to task for how little it had done to protect southern blacks and civil rights workers under attack in the Deep South.[41][84] Cut from his original speech at the insistence of more conservative and pro-Kennedy leaders[5][85] were phrases such as:

John Lewis

Roy Wilkins announced that W. E. B. Du Bois had died in Ghana the previous night; the crowd observed a moment of silence in his memory.[80] Wilkins had initially refused to announce the news because he despised Du Bois as a Communist—but then insisted on making the announcement when he realized that Randolph would make it if he didn't.[81] Wilkins said: "Regardless of the fact that in his later years Dr. Du Bois chose another path, it is incontrovertible that at the dawn of the twentieth century his was the voice that was calling you to gather here today in this cause. If you want to read something that applies to 1963 go back and get a volume of The Souls of Black Folk by Du Bois, published in 1903."[82]

Roy Wilkins

Although one of the officially stated purposes of the march was to support the civil rights bill introduced by the Kennedy Administration, several of the speakers criticized the proposed law as insufficient. Two government agents stood by in a position to cut power to the microphone if necessary.[79]

John Lewis, labor leader Walter Reuther and CORE chairman Floyd McKissick (substituting for arrested CORE director James Farmer). The Eva Jessye Choir then sang, and Rabbi Uri Miller (president of the Synagogue Council of America) offered a prayer, followed by National Urban League director Whitney Young, NCCIJ director Mathew Ahmann, and NAACP leader Roy Wilkins. After a performance by singer Mahalia Jackson, American Jewish Congress president Joachim Prinz spoke, followed by SCLC president Martin Luther King, Jr. Rustin then read the march's official demands for the crowd's approval, and Randolph led the crowd in a pledge to continue working for the march's goals. The program was closed with a benediction by Morehouse College president Benjamin Mays.

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom program

Official program

Floyd McKissick read James Farmer's speech because Farmer had been arrested during a protest in Louisiana; Farmer had written that the protests would not stop "until the dogs stop biting us in the South and the rats stop biting us in the North."[75]

Representatives from each of the sponsoring organizations addressed the crowd from the podium at the Lincoln Memorial. Speakers (dubbed "The Big Ten") included The Big Six; three religious leaders (Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish); and labor leader Walter Reuther. None of the official speeches were by women; Josephine Baker gave a speech during the preliminary offerings, but women's presence in the official program was limited to a "tribute" led by Bayard Rustin, at which Daisy Bates spoke (see "excluded speakers" below.)


The rest of Washington was quiet during the March. Most non-participating workers stayed home. Jailers allowed inmates to watch the March on TV.[74]

About 50 members of the American Nazi Party staged a counter-protest and were quickly dispersed by police.[73]

Marchers were not supposed to create their own signs, though this rule was not completely enforced by marshals. Most of the demonstrators did carry pre-made signs, available in piles at the Washington Monument.[72]

The march failed to start on time because its leaders were meeting with members of Congress. To the leaders' surprise, the assembled group began to march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial without them. The leaders met the March at Constitution Avenue, where they linked arms at the head of a crowd in order to be photographed 'leading the march'.[71]

Although Randolph and Rustin had originally planned to fill the streets of Washington, D.C., the final route of the March covered only half of the National Mall.[44] The march began at the [70]

Leaders arrive late and link arms in front of marchers on Constitution Avenue.

On August 28, more than 2,000 buses, 21 chartered trains, 10 chartered airliners, and uncounted cars converged on Washington.[69] All regularly scheduled planes, trains, and buses were also filled to capacity.[42]

[68] The march commanded national attention by preempting regularly scheduled television programs. As the first ceremony of such magnitude ever initiated and dominated by African Americans, the march also was the first to have its nature wholly misperceived in advance. Dominant expectations ran from paternal apprehension to dread. On

Nearly 250,000 people marched, including 60,000 white participants

The March

Rustin pushed hard for an expensive ($16,000) sound system, maintaining "We cannot maintain order where people cannot hear." The system was obtained and set up at the Lincoln Memorial, but was sabotaged on the day before the March. Its operators were unable to repair it. Fauntroy contacted Attorney General Robert Kennedy and his civil rights liaison Burke Marshall, demanding that the government fix the system. Fauntroy reportedly told them: "We have a couple hundred thousand people coming. Do you want a fight here tomorrow after all we've done?" The system was successfully rebuilt overnight by the U.S. Army Signal Corps.[67]

Sound system

Jerry Bruno, President Kennedy's advance man, was positioned to cut the power to the public address system in the event of any incendiary rally speech.[60]

Rustin and Walter Fauntroy negotiated some security issues with the government, gaining approval for private marshals with the understanding that these would not be able to act against outside agitators. The FBI and Justice Department refused to provide preventive guards for buses traveling through the South to reach D.C.[64] William Johnson recruited more than 1,000 police officers to serve on this force.[65] Julius Hobson, an FBI informant who served on the March's security force, told the team to be on the lookout for FBI infiltrators who might act as agents provocateurs.[66]

For the first time since Prohibition, liquor sales were banned in Washington D.C.[62] Hospitals stockpiled blood plasma and cancelled elective surgeries.[63] Major League Baseball cancelled two games between the Minnesota Twins and the last place Washington Senators even though the venue, D.C. Stadium, was nearly four miles from the Lincoln Memorial rally site.[60]

The Washington, D.C., police forces were mobilized to full capacity for the march, including reserve officers and deputized firefighters. A total of 5,900 police officers were on duty.[58] The government mustered 2,000 men from the National Guard, and brought in 3,000 outside soldiers to join the 1,000 already stationed in the area.[59] These additional soldiers were flown in on helicopters from bases in Virginia and North Carolina. The Pentagon readied 19,000 troops in the suburbs.[60] All of the forces involved were prepared to implement a coordinated conflict strategy named "Operation Steep Hill".[61]

Security preparations

Some participants who arrived early held an all-night vigil outside the Department of Justice, claiming it had unfairly targeted civil rights activists and that it had been too lenient on white supremacists who attacked them.[57]

Hazel Mangle Rivers, who had paid $8 for her ticket—"one-tenth of her husband's weekly salary"—was quoted in the August 29 New York Times. Rivers stated that she was impressed by Washington's civility: "The people are lots better up here than they are down South. They treat you much nicer. Why, when I was out there at the march a white man stepped on my foot, and he said, "Excuse me," and I said "Certainly!" That's the first time that has ever happened to me. I believe that was the first time a white person has ever really been nice to me."[42]

Other bus rides featured racial tension, as black activists criticized liberal white participants as fair-weather friends.[56]

Contrary to the mythology, the early moments of the March—getting there—was no picnic. People were afraid. We didn't know what we would meet. There was no precedent. Sitting across from me was a black preacher with a white collar. He was an AME preacher. We talked. Every now and then, people on the bus sang 'Oh Freedom' and 'We Shall Overcome,' but for the most part there wasn't a whole bunch of singing. We were secretly praying that nothing violent happened.

John Marshall Kilimanjaro, a demonstrator traveling from Greensboro, North Carolina, said:[55]

The 260 demonstrators, of all ages, carried picnic baskets, water jugs, Bibles and a major weapon - their willingness to march, sing and pray in protest against discrimination. They gathered early this morning [August 27] in Birmingham's

One reporter, Fred Powledge, accompanied African-Americans who boarded six buses in Birmingham, Alabama, for the 750-mile trip to Washington. The New York Times carried his report:

Thousands traveled by road, rail, and air to Washington D.C. on Wednesday, August 28. Marchers from Boston traveled overnight and arrived in Washington at 7am after an eight-hour trip, but others took much longer bus rides from places like Milwaukee, Little Rock, and St. Louis. Organizers persuaded New York's MTA to run extra subway trains after midnight on August 28, and the New York City bus terminal was busy throughout the night with peak crowds.[53] A total of 450 buses left New York City from Harlem. Maryland police reported that "by 8:00 a.m., 100 buses an hour were streaming through the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel."[54]


As the march was being planned, activists across the country received bomb threats at their homes and in their offices. The Los Angeles Times received a message saying its headquarters would be bombed unless it printed a message calling the president a "Nigger Lover". Five airplanes were grounded on the morning of August 28 due to bomb threats. A man in Kansas City telephoned the FBI to say he would put a hole between King's eyes; the FBI did not respond. Roy Wilkins was threatened with assassination if he did not leave the country.[52]

Organizers worked out of a building at West 130th St. and Lenox in Harlem.[51] They promoted the march by selling buttons, featuring two hands shaking, the words "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom", a union bug, and the date August 28, 1963. By August 2, they had distributed 42,000 of the buttons. Their goal was a crowd of at least 100,000 people.[45]

[50] launched a prominent public attack on the March as Communist, and singled out Rustin in particular as a Communist and a gay man.Strom Thurmond [49] rejected its contents.J. Edgar Hoover produced a lengthy report on August 23 suggesting that Communists had failed to appreciably infiltrate the civil rights movement, FBI Director William C. Sullivan When [48] To avoid being perceived as radical, organizers rejected support from Communist groups. However, some politicians claimed that the March was Communist-inspired, and the

The Kennedy Administration cooperated with the organizers in planning the March, and one member of the Justice Department was assigned as a full-time liaison.[44] Chicago and New York City (as well as some corporations) agreed to designate August 28 as "Freedom Day" and give workers the day off.[45]

Although in years past, Randolph had supported "Negro only" marches, partly to reduce the impression that the civil rights movement was dominated by white communists, organizers in 1963 agreed that whites and blacks marching side by side would create a more powerful image.[43]

  • Passage of meaningful civil rights legislation;
  • Immediate elimination of school segregation;
  • A program of public works, including job training, for the unemployed;
  • A Federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring;
  • A $2-an-hour minimum wage nationwide;
  • Withholding Federal funds from programs that tolerate discrimination;
  • Enforcement of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by reducing congressional representation from States that disenfranchise citizens;
  • A broadened Fair Labor Standards Act to currently excluded employment areas;
  • Authority for the Attorney General to institute injunctive suits when constitutional rights are violated.[42]

Despite their disagreements, the group came together on a set of goals:

March organizers themselves disagreed over the purpose of the march. The NAACP and Urban League saw it as a gesture of support for a civil rights bill that had been introduced by the Kennedy Administration. Randolph, King, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) saw it as a way of raising both civil rights and economic issues to national attention beyond the Kennedy bill. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) saw it as a way of challenging and condemning the Kennedy administration's inaction and lack of support for civil rights for African Americans.[5]

The march was not universally supported among civil rights activists. Some, including Rustin (who assembled 4,000 volunteer marshals from New York), were concerned that it might turn violent, which could undermine pending legislation and damage the international image of the movement.[40] The march was condemned by Malcolm X, spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, who termed it the "farce on Washington".[41]

[39] as their operations headquarters.WUST During the days leading up to the march, these 200 volunteers used the ballroom of Washington DC radio station [38] Mobilization and logistics were administered by Rustin, a civil rights veteran and organizer of the 1947

[37] On June 22, Big Six met with President Kennedy, who warned against creating "an atmosphere of intimidation" by bringing a large crowd to Washington. The civil rights activists insisted on holding the march. Wilkins pushed for the organizers to rule out

Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. (Leaders of the march)

[35] In June 1963, leaders from several different organizations formed the

[31] As they negotiated with other leaders, they expanded their stated objectives to "Jobs and Freedom" to acknowledge the agenda of groups that focused more on civil rights.[30] Randolph and Rustin intended to focus the March on economic inequality, stating in their original plan that “integration in the fields of education, housing, transportation and public accommodations will be of limited extent and duration so long as fundamental economic inequality along racial lines persists.”[29] He reached out to union leaders, winning the support of the UAW's [28] On May 15, 1963, without securing the cooperation of the NAACP or the Urban League, Randolph announced an "October Emancipation March on Washington for Jobs".


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