The March on Washington Timeline 1963

March on Washington 1963

 This timeline details the main events in the planning of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 28th August 1963 and the events of the day


1961 (December)
Asa Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, civil and labour rights activists, began planning two days of protests followed by a rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to improve job opportunities for black people.
1963 (1st January)
This date marked the hundred-year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (Proclamation 95) issued by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. Randolph and Rustin called for a March on Washington for Jobs to be held.
1963 (February)
Stephen Currier, President of the Taconic Foundation met with Martin Luther King, leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to discuss ways that the various Civil Rights groups could work together.
1963 (15th May)
Randolph and Rustin announced there would be an ‘October Emancipation March on Washington for Jobs’.
1963 (24th May)
Baldwin-Kennedy Meeting
Robert Kennedy invited black author and activist James Baldwin to a meeting in New York. Baldwin took with him a number of people involved in the struggle for equality. However, despite good intentions, Baldwin’s delegation felt that the two sides were poles apart.
1963 (late May)
Randolph and Rustin agreed to extend the aim of the March on Washington to include freedom.
1963 (11th June)
President John F Kennedy announced that segregation was legally and morally wrong and that he would be introducing new civil rights legislation during his time in office.
1963 (19th June)
Council for United Civil Rights Leadership (CUCRL)
Stephen Currier, head of the Taconic Foundation, called for the formation of a group to coordinate distribution of funds, particularly large donations, to all groups within the Civil Rights Movement. This was agreed and the members of the Council were:
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), led by Martin Luther King Jr
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), led by Roy Wilkins
The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF)—a group which split from the NAACP in 1957, led by Jack Greenberg
The National Urban League, led by Whitney Young
The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), led by Dorothy Height
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), led by James Forman and John Lewis
The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), led by James Farmer and Bayard Rustin
1963 (22nd June)
The organisers of the March on Washington met with President John Kennedy to gain approval for the event which was scheduled to take place on August 28th 1963. Kennedy insisted that the event be peaceful.
1963 (2nd July)
The plan for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was announced in a press conference.
1963 (early July)
Leaders of the CUCRL endorsed Asa Philip Randolph as the main organiser of the March on Washington with Rustin to act as his deputy.
1963 (17th July)
President Kennedy spoke in favour of the March and emphasised that it would be a peaceful protest.
1963 (early August)
J Edgar Hoover, leader of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tried to hamper the march by advising celebrity endorsers that the organisers had connections to Communists.
1963 (2nd August)
March organisers worked hard to promote the event and hoped for around 100,000 people to attend. Participants would peacefully march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial where the crowds would be addressed by a number of speakers.
1963 (3rd August)
Asa Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins and Anna Arnold Hedgeman were photographed planning the route for the March.
1963 (8th August)
Charlton Heston, Eartha Kitt, Judy Garland and Marlon Brando were among celebrities that met organisers to discuss their joining the March.
1963 (23rd August)
FBI official, William C Sullivan, reported that Communists had not infiltrated the Civil Rights Movement. Hoover rejected the report.
1963 (27th August)
An expensive, high-power sound system had been installed at the Lincoln Memorial to ensure everyone could hear the speakers. However it was discovered that it had been sabotaged by Civil Rights opponents. Organisers appealed to Robert Kennedy for help to repair the system fearing civil disobedience if people could not hear the speakers. The system was repaired by the army.
1963 (28th August – early morning)
Thousands of people were arriving in Washington DC. Many had made very long bus or train journeys to reach Washington. It was reported that more than 2,000 buses arrived in the Capital that morning.
1963 (28th August – early morning)
Around 6,000 police officers were stationed around Washington. Troops were placed on standby in case of any trouble or violence. Alcohol sales had been banned and hospitals readied themselves for possible casualties.
1963 (28th August – early morning)
Marchers were given packed lunches prepared by volunteers.
1963 (28th August – midday)
Huge numbers of people had arrived at the Washington Monument where the march was to begin. Speakers and musicians joined them there. Female leaders were to lead marchers along Independence Avenue while male leaders were at the head of those marching down Constitiution Avenue. All marchers then assembled around the reflecting pool while the speakers ascended the stage.
1963 (28th August – afternoon)
Once everyone had assembled the programme began:
1. The National Anthem led by singer Marian Anderson
2. Invocation led by the Very Reverend Patrick O’Boyle, Archbishop of Washington
3. Opening Address by Asa Philip Randolph, Director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
4. Address by Dr. Eugene Carson Blake, Stated Clerk, United Presbyterian Church of the USA; Vice Chairman of the Commission on Race Relations of the National Council of Churches of Christ in America
5. Tribute to Negro Women Fighters for Freedom by Daisy Bates who spoke in place of Mrs Medgar Evers, widow of activist Medgar Evers, who had missed her flight
6. Speech by John Lewis, National Chairman Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
7. Speech by Walter Reuther, President United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
8. Speech by James Farmer, National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality
9. Selection of Music by the Eva Jessye Choir
10. Prayers led by Rabbi Uri Miller, President Synagogue Council of America
11. Speech by Whitney M Young Jr, Executive Director of the National Urban League
12. Speech by Mathew Ahmann, Executive Director National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice
13. Speech by Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
14. Selection of Music by Mahalia Jackson, American Gospel singer
15. Speech by Rabbi Joachim Prinz, President of the American Jewish Congress
16. Speech (I Have a Dream…) by Reverend Dr Martin Luther King Jr, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
17. Pledge by March organisers – Ruskin read out the demands of the March. This was followed by a pledge led by Asa Philip Randolph to continue working for Civil Rights
18. Benediction by Dr Benjamin E Mays, President of Morehouse College.
1963 (28th August – afternoon)
Singers Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Odetta and Peter Paul and Mary all sang at the event.
Celebrities that attended the March on Washington included: James Baldwin, Josephine Baker, Marlon Brando, Harry Belafonte, Diahann Carroll, Bobby Darin, Ossie Davis, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ruby Dee, James Garner, Dick Gregory, Charlton Heston, Lena Horne, Eartha Kitt, Burt Lancaster, Rita Moreno, Paul Newman, Sidney Poitier, Jackie Robinson, Robert Ryan and Joanne Woodward. Judy Garland had been unable to attend due to a prior engagement.
1963 (28th August – 5 pm)
Those who had spoken to the crowd met President Kennedy at the White House for a discussion regarding future civil rights legislation.
1963 (after 28th August)
The media reported the March on Washington as a great success, largely due to the peaceful nature of the protest and the enduring and powerful ‘I Have a Dream’ speech by Martin Luther King. However, others criticised the event as pandering to a white notion of Civil Rights rather than being a true reflection of the black Civil Rights Movement.
1964 (2nd July)
Civil Rights Act 1964
President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed this Act into law. The law stated that discrimination by race, colour, nationality, religion or sex was illegal. These were aims of the March on Washington.
1965 (6th August)
The Voting Rights Act
This act made racial discrimination in voting illegal. This was a demand of the March on Washington.


Published May 10, 2022 @ 6:06 pm – Updated -[last-modified]

Harvard Reference for this page:

Heather Y Wheeler. (2022). The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom 1963


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