On the anniversary of the death of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., African Americans reflected on accomplishments that have been achieved throughout the years.
One moment that stands out for many people is the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This was a large political rally that took place in Washington, D.C., 45 years ago on Aug. 28, 1963. The march was one of the most influential gatherings in history. It is where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in an attempt to advocate racial harmony. It is estimated that 250,000 people attended this march, including 200,000 African-Americans and 50,000 whites. This march was an influential factor in the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was the historical precedent for the Million Man March, organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on Oct. 16, 1995.
The Million Man March was an effort by activists to increase black volunteerism and community involvement and especially to register African-American men to vote in the U.S. elections.
The event itself was for males only, which was considered sexist by some. Following the march, voter registration statistics showed that one and a half million African-American men registered to vote, indicating that the march indeed incited people to take a stand in the shaping of their country and make their voices heard.
The size of the crowd present at the march was a controversy as it was originally estimated by march organizers as being between 1.5 million and 2 million people. U.S. Park Police, however, estimated the march to be actually 400,000. Both figures were subsequently discounted by a Boston University study. After much deliberation, it showed that the crowd present was actually between 669,600 and 1,004,400. How much has the state of the African-American people progressed after monumental movements such as these? Have the words and efforts of these “heroes” been heeded? Has there really been significant change in the lives of African-Americans to this day?
Terrell Lewis, a 21-year-old junior psychology major at Howard University, says that it has. “For the Million Man March to achieve an accomplishment such as getting one and a half million African-American men to vote ensures that African Americans are willing to get out there and make a difference in the world.”
“They want their voice to be heard and are willing to stand up and prove it,” Lewis continued.
Shari Johnson, a 20-year-old sophomore finance major at Howard, agrees that these were all major accomplishments, but says “African Americans have taken for granted the opportunities afforded to them by these civil rights leaders.”
“We have come a long way, but we still need to make movements and incite action,” Johnson went on to say. “We cannot sit and wait for it to come to us. We need to bring about the change we want to see in this world.”