Fifty years ago today, hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C. to march for the civil and economic rights of African Americans. There, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave what is likely the most famous speech of the 20th century. Here it is in its entirety.
Spearheaded by labor organizer Philip Randolph and activist Bayard Rustin, the march took more than a year to plan. Rustin, a gay man who had once been a member of the Communist Party, was forced out of the small core of official organizers early; he nevertheless mobilized the thousands of marchers through hundreds of volunteer organizers and managed the logistics of the march. Randolph, meanwhile, brokered peace between the mainstream black political organizations, the more activist SCLC, and the even more radical student groups.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as it was called, settled on a set of broad goals that mixed calls for "meaningful civil-rights legislation" and school desegregation with demands for economic rights—a higher minimum wage, anti-discrimination laws, and a public-works program.
The march itself went off largely without a hitch. Rustin gave a short speech in "tribute to Negro women," replacing the only woman on the program, Myrlie Evers; Randolph gave the opening remarks. And King gave this speech: