Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington


              Growing up, Martin Luther King Jr. probably did not think he was going to lead on of the biggest movements of the 20th century. Although not prepared for his role, he still truly understood what it would take to change the mind of an entire nation on the issue of civil rights. 
             According to Dorothy Cotton, who was present in room 30 of the A.G. Gaston Motel the night that Dr. King decided he, too, would also go to jail for the cause of civil rights. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew that he could not excuse himself from the punishment that his people were enduring. In Dr. King's book Why We Can't Wait, he stated that he had once told Dorothy he “could not encourage hundreds of people to make a stunning sacrifice and then excuse himself.”  Never before had a white southerner seen an African American ask to be put into jail, not because he committed a crime, but because he knew he was innocent.  King’s nonviolent approach to the issue showed the world that the African American community was out to make changes.
Dorothy Cotton, a friend of Dr. King.
         Dr. King wrote in his book, 
“When, for decades, you have been able to make a man compromise his manhood by threatening him with a cruel and unjust punishment, and when suddenly he turns upon you and says: “Punish me. I do not deserve it.  But because I do not deserve it, I will accept it so that the world will know that I am    right and you are wrong,” you hardly know what to do. You feel defeated and secretly ashamed.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. Why We Can’t Wait
            Differences between people had always been settled with dueling pistols or bloody fists, never with sit-ins or walking protests. This had never been done before. Dr. King wanted to get across the point that the African American community was tired of waiting for change. They were going to start demanding it. 
            On August 28, 1963, Dr. King, along with other leaders of civil rights groups, led over 250,000 people to Washington, D.C. to march for an increase in jobs and rights for the minority of the country.  With the Lincoln Monument as the background, the protest began.
The background to the speeches given at the march on Washington.
 No longer would they sit by and wait for someone to tell them what they could or could not have. They were going to get it come hell or high water.
Imagine this spot filled with 250,000 people.



              Many people spoke at the march, including John Lewis who was president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the more radical Civil Rights groups of the time.  In Lewis’ speech, he made it clear that the African Americans of the United States of America were tired of waiting for things to change.

“The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of political and economic slavery. The nonviolent revolution is saying, ‘We will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been waiting hundreds of years. We will not wait for the President, nor the Justice Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands, and create a great source of power, outside of any national structure that could and would assure us victory.’ For those who have said, ‘Be patient and wait!’ we must say, ‘Patience is a dirty and nasty word.’ We cannot be patient, we do not want to be free gradually, we want our freedom, and we want it now. We cannot depend on any political party, for the Democrats and the Republicans have betrayed the basic principles of the Declaration of Independence.”- John Lewis
From this speech, we learn that it was not just one man nor one race fighting this war against the whites or against the nation's government. Many people, black and white, agreed that everyone in the nation should have the same amount and qualities of rights.
Abbie Deville

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