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Vol. 77/No. 32      September 9, 2013

1963 march registered advance in
proletarian battle for Black rights
Below are excerpts from the Militant’s coverage of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, including from the speech prepared by John Lewis, then chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, that was censured by march organizers in part because of his criticisms of President John Kennedy and the Democratic Party.

The 1963 march registered the continuing expansion of a powerful proletarian movement to overthrow Jim Crow segregation. It also brought to the fore two opposing class trajectories. On one hand were those who censored Lewis’ speech and looked to the Kennedy administration and Democratic Party. On the other were proletarian forces pressing for independent working-class political action, including Malcolm X, the Socialist Workers Party and those who chose the occasion of the march to launch the Freedom Now Party.


Turnout Shows Negroes Ready for Action
WASHINGTON, D.C., Aug. 29 — The massiveness — a quarter of a million people is the best estimate — was the outstanding feature of yesterday’s March for Jobs and Freedom. This was also the most important thing about the march. For both friend and foe were carefully watching to see in what numbers Negroes would come out. To the politicians, the top union brass, the liberals, the fence-sitters and to the white supremacists — indeed to all social and political realists, the march’s size would be a gauge of whether the Freedom Now fight was still in its upsurge or beginning to subside.

The Negro people were watching it very closely themselves and were exhilarated by the record-breaking turnout. It was also a source of great encouragement to those whites who are dependable allies of the Negroes, and who constituted about ten per cent of the marchers.

The march dramatized the readiness of the Negro masses to struggle, to go all the way in the fight. It also pointed up what the Negro people could do if they had leaders of the same mettle.

From the speech John Lewis was prevented from delivering
We are now involved in a serious revolution. This nation is still a place of cheap political leaders who build their careers on immoral compromises and ally themselves with open forms of political, economic and social exploitation. What political leader here can stand up and say “My party is the party of principles”? The party of Kennedy is also the party of Eastland. The party of Javits is also the party of Goldwater. Where is our party? …

The revolution is a serious one. Mr. Kennedy is trying to take the revolution out of the street and put it in the courts. Listen Mr. Kennedy, Listen Mr. Congressmen, Listen fellow citizens, the black masses are on the march for jobs and freedom, and we must say to the politicians that there won’t be a “cooling-off” period.

All of us must get in the revolution. Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and every hamlet of this nation, until true Freedom comes, until the revolution is complete. In the Delta of Mississippi, in southwest Georgia, in Alabama, Harlem, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and all over this nation. The black masses are on the march!

We won’t stop now. All of the forces of Eastland, Barnett, Wallace, and Thurmond won’t stop this revolution. The time will come when we will not confine our marching to Washington. We will march through the South, through the Heart of Dixie, the way Sherman did. We shall pursue our own “scorched earth” policy and burn Jim Crow to the ground — non-violently. We shall fragment the South into a thousand pieces and put them back together in the image of democracy. We will make the action of the past few months look petty. And I say to you, WAKE UP AMERICA!
Related article:
Support for Obama was focus of event marking 1963 march
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