Wednesday’s Washington rain did not deter thousands from heading to the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
On August 28, 1963, the leaders of the March on Washington, including King, linked arms at the head of a marching crowd. Hundreds of thousands of marchers carrying signs gathered at the National Mall before the Lincoln Memorial. It was sunny, hot, and crowded.
Actress and activist Ruby Dee and husband Ossie Davis served as “master and mistress” of ceremonies, and musicians like Bob Dylan, Odetta, and Joan Baez sang with guitars under their arms.
“This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality—1963 is not an end but a beginning,” King said. The event would become one of the largest and most significant political rallies for civil rights in American history.
Wednesday’s march culminated in the same spot, with speeches delivered by former American presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and by Barack Obama, the nation’s first African-American president, who said that “the March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history, that we are masters of our fate.”
Some attendees wore pins that said “I was there Aug. 28, 1963,” while many others stood in the crowded National Mall for the first time.
Obama called for greater racial equality and economic opportunity: “For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can't afford the meal?”
National Geographic photo editor Sherry Brukbacher wondered how photographs of Wednesday’s commemoration compared with photographs from the 1963 march, so she assembled this gallery juxtaposing scenes from both, showing “striking similarities and differences in the events and crowds.”