By Rosemary Eng
Commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the first March on Washington will be on Saturday, June 25 at the historic 12th Street YMCA in Washington, D.C.
That’s correct, the 75th anniversary, referring to the first planned march.
“March on Washington” usually brings to mind 1963 and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s stirring “I Have a Dream” speech before 200,000 supporters.
But 20 years before that A. Philip Randolph, founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, worked to organize the original march on Washington to pressure the federal government to stop discrimination against African Americans in the defense industry.
That march never took place as President Franklin D. Roosevelt acted quickly to avoid the specter of thousands of African Americans demonstrating in Washington, D.C., by issuing Executive Order 8802 which brought about the Fair Employment Practice Committee to assure “there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin.”
Despite that march not taking place, Randolph went ahead to found the grassroots-based March on Washington Movement to hold government accountable to end discrimination in government, the armed forces and defence industries.
The poster for this year’s event at the 12th Street YMCA (1816 12th Street N.W., Washington, D.C.,) shows A. Philip Randolph superimposed on an image of the Lincoln Monument.
The feature event will be the showing of the film, A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom (1996).
Speakers will be:
- Dante James, head of the Portland, OR, office of race and equity. He is also helping Oakland, CA, establish an office of race and equity. James, a film producer and director, directed A. Philip Randolph: For Jobs and Freedom.
- Anna Reid Jhirad, a film artist who has worked on some 80 films related to African- American history, including the A. Philip Randolph film.
- David Lucander, author of Winning the War for Democracy, the March on Washington Movement, 1941-1946, and an editor of For Jobs and Freedom, a collection of writings by A. Philip Randolph.
- Marbre Stahly-Butts, deputy director for racial justice at the Center for Popular Democracy, Brooklyn, NY, office.
Walter Naegle, who is historically interwoven in the Randolph story, is co-host of the event. Naegle was the longtime partner of civil rights activist and pacifist Bayard Rustin who worked with Randolph in planning the first March on Washington. Naegle helped organize Randolph’s personal papers for the Library of Congress.
The other co-host is Margaret Chisholm who worked on the Centennial of Bayard Rustin celebration at Yale Law School library where she was a librarian. She will make introductory remarks.
Chisholm noted that Washington, D.C.’s 12th Street YMCA is historical in its own right in that it is home to the first African-American chapter of the YMCA and that Thurgood Marshall, who served on the U.S. Supreme Court, and poet Langston Hughes stayed at that YMCA in the days when segregation barred them from staying in hotels. Randolph held planning meetings for the 1941 march at that YMCA.
Discussion will take place throughout the program from 2 to 6 p.m. RSVPs are being taken at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.