COMMENTARY– 60th Anniversary Of The March On Washington Celebrates Racial Unity & Collective Resistance To Extremism

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marc morial
Marc H. Morial President and CEO National Urban League

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was organized by six Black-led civil rights organizations: National Urban League, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, NAACP, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Congress of Racial Equality, and the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. 

by Marc H. Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League

It is not merely sympathy and compassion for the Black people of America that motivates us. It is above all and beyond all such sympathies and emotions a sense of complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience. … bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.”  
Rabbi Joachim Prinz, March on Washington, 1963
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Washington 2023 photo for To Be Equal column
March on Washington 2023. Photo courtesy To Be Equal

The 60th anniversary observance of the March, this Saturday, has been organized by a broad coalition of civil rights and social justice organizations, reflecting a strong emphasis on multi-racial unity.  Principal organizers National Action Network and the Drum Major Institute are joined by co-chairs National Urban League, NAACP, Anti-Defamation League, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, Human Rights Campaign, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Legal Defense Fund, The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, National Conference of Negro Women, and Unidos US. 

The March is supported by hundreds of community organizations, labor unions, and churches, all committed to defending democracy, dismantling systemic racism, putting an end to police brutality and gun violence, tackling climate change to save the planet, and eradicating poverty in the wealthiest nation on earth. 

We all are threatened by the wave of extremism that is sweeping through statehouses and school boards and encroaches on the halls of Congress and the Oval Office. 

The leading exemplar of this extremist agenda has emerged in Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis’ education department has censored books about the Holocaust and clamped down on discussion of race, gender identity and sexual orientation. He continues working to suppress the vote and devised a plan to wipe away half of the state’s Black-dominated congressional districts, dramatically diminishing Black voting strength. He’s effectively eliminated the right of women to make decisions about their reproductive health. He’s enabling the proliferation of gun violence and hampering efforts to stop it. He fought against raising the wage for Florida’s lowest-paid workers and made it harder for workers to seek better working conditions.  

The only way to defeat an agenda that threatens us all is to unite. The theme of Saturday’s march is Not A Commemoration, A Continuation. The goals for which a quarter-million Americans peacefully gathered in 1963 are not relics to be admired in a museum, but an ongoing movement. Together with our brothers and sisters of every race, faith, sexuality, gender identity, ethnicity, and national origin, we will transform the heat of oppression into an oasis of freedom and justice just as Martin Luther King, Jr., foresaw 60 years ago.