On Saturday, August 24, 2013, tens of thousands of people gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Crowds gathered in the same fashion as they did in 1963 to hear Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The day featured speakers who serve as civil rights leaders today: Attorney General Eric Holder, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Rep. John Lewis, who was the youngest speaker at the original event in the early 60’s.
While women like Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height marched with Dr. King and other civil leaders, women played an even larger role in this year’s celebration than they may have in 1963. Myrlie Evers-Williams took the podium to give a new definition to ‘Stand Your Ground,’ the law which freed George Zimmerman in the tragic Trayvon Martin case.
Issues addressed at this year’s march included the Supreme Court’s ruling of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a ruling which allows nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without federal approval. The states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia will not have to receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before they make changes to voting procedures, like moving a polling place, or redrawing electoral districts. President Obama has said publicly that he was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling of the Supreme Court.
Another hot topic was the Trayvon Martin case verdict. Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, spoke briefly at the march. She has released the single “Joy In the Morning” in honor of her son’s memory and senseless killing.
The march, which was sponsored by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network, Martin Luther King III and the NAACP, continued on to Dr. King’s historic statute and the Washington Memorial.
The well-attended march is the first major event leading up to an anticipated day when the first black president will speak on a landmark day in history.