March on Washington

Bayard Rustin, deputy director of the March on Washington, speaks to the crowd of marchers from the Lincoln Memorial. August 28, 1963

Bayard Rustin organized the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in the summer of 1963. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. roused a crowd of 250,000 on Aug. 28 with his seminal “I Have A Dream” speech.

In less than two months, Russell organized the most significant demonstration the country had ever seen. He was a civil rights leader and openly gay pacifist who helped organize the march. As a compromise, due to his sexual orientation, communist background, and time in jail for being a conscientious objector – all of which may have undermined the success of the movement – the title of leader for the march went to pioneering civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph, who had envisioned a march as early as 1941. Randolph then appointed Rustin as his deputy. Despite his loss of title, Rustin is now recognized as the architect of the march.

“As we follow this form of mass action and strategic nonviolence,” he said, “we will not only put pressure on the government, but we will put pressure on other groups which ought by their nature to be allied with us.”


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