50 Years Later, America Recalls the Dream

IAM members braved rainy weather at the Lincoln Memorial to witness the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Bells tolled, freedom rang and the dream was reaffirmed as Americans came together on the National Mall and across the country to commemorate the 50th anniversary – to the day – of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Against a backdrop of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963, a contingent of IAM members came together with tens of thousands of people as the first African-American president joined labor, civil rights and religious leaders in channeling the spirit of a march that changed a nation half a century ago.

Click here to view an updated photo gallery with images from the event, as well as from the commemorative march on August 24. 

“Fifty years ago, in a country deeply divided, they marched for an end to segregation, a voice in our democracy and a dream of racial harmony,” said IAM General Vice President Diane Babineaux. “Today, in the memory of great civil rights leaders like Dr. King, Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph, as well as trail-blazing African-American women like Dorothy Height, Rosa Parks and Myrlie Evers-Williams, we reaffirm our pledge to provide jobs for the jobless, hope for the hopeless and equal opportunity for all Americans.”

Speakers included United Farm Workers Co-Founder Dolores Huerta, A. Philip Randolph Institute President Clayola Brown and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers President Lee Saunders. The Rev. Al Sharpton, Caroline Kennedy, Oprah Winfrey and several members of the King family also joined Presidents Obama, Clinton and Carter in recalling King’s dream.

“Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes,” Obama said in his address. “Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed and Congress changed and, yes, eventually the White House changed.”

At 3 p.m., the same time 50 years ago that King delivered his famous speech, members of the King family tolled a bell that was once at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL, where a 1963 bombing killed four African-American girls. Nearly 300 sites around the country also rang bells in memory of the iconic civil rights leader.

With deference to the past, they let freedom ring – all while knowing that voting rights are still challenged, economic prosperity isn’t shared and skin color can still be a barrier to the middle class.

“To win that battle, to answer that call,” said Obama, “this remains our great unfinished business.”

Click here to watch a “Meet the Press” interview with King that took place just three days before the historic 1963 march.

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