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August 28, 2013, marked the 50th anniversary of the largest civil rights demonstration in American History, the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. During the 1963 March, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I have a dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary, a wide variety of organizations (including The King Center, NAACP, SCLC, National Action Network, A. Philip Randolph Institute, National Council of Negro Women, SCLC, National Urban League, Children’s Defense Fund, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and the Rainbow Push Coalition), sponsored a week-long celebration of the 1963 March.

The concluding event was the “Let Freedom Ring Commemorative/Call to Action Closing Ceremony” held at the Lincoln Memorial. Featured speakers at the event included former President Bill Clinton, former President Jimmy Carter, President Barack Obama, and Georgia Congressman/long-time civil rights activist John Lewis. At the time of the 1963 March, Lewis was then 23 years old and the youngest speaker. He is the only speaker from the 1963 March who is still alive. There were many other notable speakers at the Let Freedom Ring Celebration, including Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker, Caroline Kennedy, Julian Bond, Bill Russell, Myrlie Evers Williams, and two of Martin Luther King Jr.’s children, Martin Luther King III, and the Rev. Bernice King. 

ProQuest employees who work on the ProQuest History Vault product and have a deep interest in American History took time off from their work on August 28, 2013, to attend the Let Freedom Ring celebration. It was an interesting and inspiring event, one that they were glad to be able take part in. We have posted a few pictures that they snapped during the celebration to our Facebook page.

You can see PBS Newshour’s coverage of the 50th anniversary events here.

This anniversary was also meaningful to us because History Vault includes a wide range of interesting documentation on the 1963 March. The Bayard Rustin Papers in History Vault are especially notable.

Rustin has gained increasing recognition in recent years for his pivotal role as the organizer of the 1963 March. In fact, the White House has announced that it will be posthumously awarding Rustin with the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this year.

The Bayard Rustin Papers in History Vault document his amazing work overseeing the complex strategic and logistical details that were necessary to pulling off a successful demonstration. 

The Bayard Rustin Papers include pages of Rustin’s handwritten notes and correspondence regarding planning for the march. The images shown here are from the organizing manuals produced by the March on Washington staff as part of the preparations, and there is also one of Rustin’s to-do lists.

Beyond the Rustin Papers, we have posted a presentation to Slideshare that highlights other March on Washington content in History Vault.

17 Sep 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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