American Civil Rights


The March on Washington 1963

Why a march?

It was the favourite tactic of the Civil Rights Movement. It was peaceful and non-violent

Why Washington D.C?

It is the capital of America, home of the President and it is the decision making centre of the USA. Congress and the Supreme Court are based there. A mass march would not go unnoticed. 

When did it take place?

Took place on August 28th 1963

Why 1963?

It was following the success of Birmingham earlier that year. It would be appropriete because it would commemorate the centenary of the Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln, that prmosied abolition of slavery once the Northern states had won the civil war. 

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The March on Washington 1963

Who was involved?/ Who organised it?

Range of civil rights groups were involved. NAACP, SCLC, CORE, SNCC. Churches played a significant role- they encouraged people to go to the march. 1/3 of the marchers were white and there were mainly middle class people attending. 

How did the Kennedys react to it?

Initially they were concerned that the march and speeches would directly attack them. Once they recieved reassurances that they would be moderate the Kennedys supported the March. It would have reflected them badly if they interfered or blocked the march.It showed the level of sympathy they had at this stage and that it was growing for the Civil Rights Movement. 

How many people turned out?

Approx. 250,000. Organisers had hoped for a total of 100,000 at the most.

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The March on Washington 1963

Who had a dream that day?

Martin Luther King. His speech was a very moving one. He made a powerful appeal to white americans, with his references to declaration of independance and to the bible. It showed him at his best. He was taking moral high ground with a fiercly non-violent and peaceful protest.

How successful was the march?

It was very well organised, well supported and recieved world wide media attention.This helped to promote King as a leader. It showed Civil Rights organisations could work together. It demonstrated the level of white support for the movement and gave Kennedy even more leverage to introduce a civil rights legislation. Climate of opinion made real change possible. Typically in the south, resistance increased. September 63 three weeks after the march 4 black children in sunday school were killed in a bomb attacl.


First time the major civil rights leaders collaborated on a national undertaking, although the co-operation did not extent beyond this single march. March impressed television audiences worldwide. 

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1964 Civil Rights Act

Discrimination on the basis of race was outlawd in all areas of public accommodation including restaurants, theatres, motels, sports stadiums, cinemas and concert halls

The US attourney general was given strong powers to use federal courts to secure equal treatments

Funds could be withheld to areas which did not promote desegregation

Furthered school desegregation

Created an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with powers to outlaw job discrimination by employers and labour unions on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin

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1965 Selma Campaign

King thought that Selma had become a symbol of bitter end resistance to the civil rights movement in the deep south. Selmas sheriff Jim Clarke was known for reacting as brutally as Bull Connor, this would result in nation publicity.

Selma was yet to establish whether the provisions of the '64 civil rights act would operate in the South. The act needed to be tested and voting rights was seen as an area to try. 

King led 'would be' voters to register at Selma County Court House however despite a federal judge's ruling, there were no registrations. A trooper shot a black youth who was trying to sheild his mother. Whites threw venomous snakes at blacks trying to register. To get media attention King held back men who tried to stop Clarke from clubbing a black woman

Selma didn't prove as effective as King had hoped therefore SCLS and SNCC organised a march to publicise the need for a voting rights act.

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1965 Selma Campaign- Bloody Sunday

The march was to go from Selma to Montgomery(Alabama's capital). Once the marchers reached the Edmund Pettus Bridge police violently forced the marchers back, state troopers attacked the marchers with clubs and used tear gas.

'Bloody Sunday' aroused national critism of Selma whites. 

SNCC felt betrayed by King and the SCLC because President Johnson asked King to call off the next march, King felt that consituted a betrayal of his followers. Without informing the SNCC King got the marchers to approach state troopers then retreat. The SNCC felt betrayed and accused them of cowardice.

The reaction of Jim Clarke, the violence of the police and violent hostility of many southern white people to equal rights had an effect similar to that in Birmingham. President Johnson was determined to now act and introduced a voting rights bill to congress.

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