August 28 marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. It is a time to celebrate a movement, a speech, and leaders who influenced generations of people around the globe and achieved genuine progress for diverse groups of Americans.
There is no doubt that America has come a long way since the civil rights era. But while the indignities of segregated public accommodations have largely disappeared, another significant theme of the march remains highly relevant half a century later: the struggle for economic opportunity and equality. It was perhaps due to the march and the great success of the larger civil rights movement that opposition to this sort of equality was immediate, persists to this day, and is reflected in all three branches of the federal government.
The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was based on 10 concrete demands, including comprehensive civil rights legislation, desegregation of public schools, voting rights, job training and dignified work, and an increased minimum wage. The potential to expand economic opportunity and lift African Americans, other Americans of color, and white Americans out of poverty and low-income status was clear—not just through direct tools such as wages and work but also through indirect avenues such as improved educational opportunities and the opportunity to vote for political candidates who work to advance economic justice.
For more on this topic, please see:
- The March on Washington: Looking Back on 50 Years by Joy Moses and Zach Murray