As we remember the anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on tomorrow which occurred 54 years ago on Aug. 28, 1963, we must continue to stand for equality and justice, letting our light shine “every where we go.”
This historic event became a major turning point during the Civil Rights Movement, showing the resolve of black America in securing their full rights as American citizens. Throughout the black struggle in this country, there was never any doubt that the overwhelming majority of black Americans would settle for anything less. More than any other American, blacks understood and valued the meaning of freedom.
Taking on an urgency of “Now,” over 200,000 Americans, comprising the greatest mass demonstration movement in history at that time—white and black, Christian and Jewish—gathered in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln, on the steps of the memorial bearing his name, in the nation’s capital. They came in the pursuit of the American values of justice and equality, insisting on jobs and freedom for all.
More than rhetoric or mere slogans, nothing is more American than equal justice and equal opportunity. And the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was to reaffirm the principles embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, America’s founding documents.
Tomorrow, as we reflect on this historic milestone, we will have another opportunity to assess how much progress America has made in becoming a more perfect nation. In essence, we can debate how far we’ve come, how far we’ve yet to go, and the kind of country we want for generations to come. It’s abundantly clear that we’ve come a long way since 1963, especially in the area access to all public accommodation which was achieved with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And the following year, in August 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, doing away with many restrictions placed on black Americans for voting.
However, in the last 54 years since the March on Washington and in spite of the fact that we have gained many victories, there are many strident reminders that we still have a long way to go in implementing real solutions in dealing with our nation’s history of slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings and racism. Additionally, with the recent turmoil and racial unrest, there have been opportunities for many to engage in conversations that will give us a better understanding about who we are as a nation today.
Fundamentally, we must learn to respect the humanity and dignity of all Americans, coming to the realization that we are stronger together. Then, as we all work together, we can insure that America is moving in the right direction in its perennial pursuit of fairness, justice and equality for all Americans.
Remembering the anniversary of the March on Washington on tomorrow will be more poignant than ever as I am still waiting on President Trump to deliver a message of hope and healing.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.