Thousands Rally on 50th Anniversary of MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech

They gathered in Washington to honor his legacy and continue his fight for equality

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Pete Marovich / Getty Images

People from across the globe arrived on the National Mall to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a Dream" speech on Aug 24, 2013 in Washington, DC.

WASHINGTON — Four days shy of the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington, thousands rallied in the capitol once more on Saturday to continue the fight for justice and equality in America.

Throughout the day at the “National Action to Realize the Dream” rally, activists, leaders and icons in the realms civil rights, women’s rights, labor, and LGBT rights addressed the crowd from a podium at the Lincoln Memorial, the same spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech 50 years ago.

They urged the crowd to honor King’s legacy by continuing his struggle for equality.

“Fifty years ago I stood right here in this spot,” said Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who at 23 was the youngest speaker at the 1963 march. “I’m here again to say that those days for the most part are gone, but we have another fight. We must stand up and fight the good fight today.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was also in attendance in 1963, said that King “would want us to celebrate his legacy by realizing the dream.”

The California Democrat joined a large coalition of women who addressed the crowd on Saturday, including leaders from the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood, as well as Dr. Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of Medgar Evers, who was assassinated just weeks before the 1963 march. These women, along with leaders from the LGBT, Latino and Asian-American communities, helped this year’s march stand in stark contrast to 1963, when only one woman spoke and the struggles of those groups went unmentioned.

“We all need to unite and get well together,” said Rev. Al Sharpton, whose National Action Network, in conjunction with Martin Luther King III, organized the rally. “We should not be comparing pain, we should be strategizing.”

Sharpton, who was the keynote speaker, evoked Dr. King when he said the “check” promising equality to communities of color had “bounced again.”

King III, the oldest son of Dr. King who was a toddler during the original march, said that while his father’s dream has not yet been realized, he would be pleased to see the thousands gathered Saturday.

“I know that daddy is smiling from above,” King said. “I can almost hear my father humming the anthem of the movement, ‘people get ready, there’s a train comin’.’’”

From gun violence to voting rights, from unemployment to immigration reform, speakers had plenty of fodder to fire up their audience.

It was the fight for voting rights in her home state of North Carolina that led 83-year-old Margaret Misch to hop on a bus to join the rally Saturday morning.

“It’s devastating for some of us who’ve seen all of the progress that has occurred in North Carolina decimated,” Misch said. Though she wasn’t at the March on Washington in 1963, Misch said she has been protesting since 1968 — most recently at the Moral Monday demonstrations in Raleigh, N.C., where she and over 900 others were arrested between late April and August.

“I’m glad to be a part of a moment that’s bringing people together to enliven them that we need to do something,” Misch said.

There were throngs of stories like Misch’s, and throngs of people who traveled from all over to celebrate King’s legacy. Many, including Amir Kahn, 56, of Camden, N.J., brought their children and grandchildren. Others, like Washington resident Lela Bearrow, came alone.

Fifty years ago, Bearrow was in the audience. Though her view was obstructed and her feet ached from standing for the duration of the rally after walking to the National Mall from a church on 16th Street, she remembers Aug. 28, 1963 as a beautiful day.

“We knew we had nothing to fear,” Bearrow said.

On Saturday, Bearrow returned to the Lincoln Memorial, but this time she took a seat and had a better view. She said she hopes this event wasn’t just a “rally for rallying’s sake.”

“Back then, Dr. King had high expectations and hopes,” Bearrow said. “It seems as though we’re stifled in reference to whether we’re going to stand still or move forward.”

(SPECIAL: One Dream: Explore MLK’s Historic Speech 50 Years Later)

27 comments
fitty_three
fitty_three

<snicker> And the GOP wonders why they are perceived as racist.  Hmmm. </snicker>

ResoluteRenee
ResoluteRenee

@TIME Those who particip.in slavery etc.participated in kidnapping, aggr. assault, harassment, talking daily joys.Shouldnt be forgive&forgot

LindaDavison
LindaDavison

Everything was great today.  The only thing I didn't like was when they were marching and saying Education is a right not just for the rich and white.  I felt as though white should of been left out of it.  I have many very well educated black friends.  My education is no match for theirs,   I am white and not rich but not poor either.  I have worked for everything I have today and give many thanks to God for allowing me the health and strength to do what I have done so far in my life.  I am disabled now my work days are over and with God I will be just fine.

Zolicon1
Zolicon1

@TIME Yeah and the Dream He had was a real Nightmare that became reality.

RichardDelicata
RichardDelicata

I HAVE A DREAM TO STOP THE KILLING BLACK ON BLACK AND BLACK KILL WHITE ENOUGHT !!! WERE IS THE NAAPC ,7 KIDS BY 5 DIFF GUYS NO JOB....BLAME THE WHITE MAN,ARE YOU FOR REAL????

topkatnc
topkatnc

I Think Mr. King would be very proud of the changes that have been made in our country .. but very sad about how Black people act today .. it's sad .. Blacks have the same opportunities as Hispanics , Whites and Asians .. but yet they complain .. We have free education , but so many Blacks drop out and do nothing with their lives and then complain that's is the White man's fault .. It's time for everyone , no matter what color you are , to take responsibility for their lives and their actions and become the best American that you can be .

Urban_Planning
Urban_Planning

@TIME Too bad EMI publishing owns the rights to "I have a dream", making it impossible to legally find the full speech without spending $20

donpirulero
donpirulero

@TIME there are still some more equal than others, it seems ...

jdlovesLA
jdlovesLA

@TIME 50 years after MLK's 'I Have a Dream' speech, thousands rallied in Washington to renew his fight for equality | ti.me/17cQH1C

Openminded1
Openminded1

Dr. King was a great man a true leader and his heart was in the right place, some one every black could look up to and be proud. Dr king would be proud and happy to see the changes made in the last 50 years.  except he would be saddened by what the black youth of today look up to like Rappers,Oj, and people like big mouth Rev Al  and bigger mouth J. Jackson and the likes of Lewis frahkan and his violent brotherhood. He would hate the use of the black race card, he would hate the double standard of racism and the chips on the shoulder violent blacks who use racism as an excuse to fail. there will never be another Black leader like him again, Obama is a joke and a phony next to MLK. Rip Dr. King you were one of kind.

collioure
collioure

@topkatnc  

I agree with that sentiment.

Dr King was a very great man whom we lost too early.  I wish he had been able to carry on and see the progress his efforts put into motion.


HeatherOMalley
HeatherOMalley

@donpirulero @TIME - Yes. Affirmative Action is government sponsored racism, pure and simple.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@aztecian @Openminded1 Where is the race baiting moron? What you love REv Al and Obama or is OJ or maybe K.west. You think they are anything like MLK, get real they are Racist who cause racial divide.

JohnWhitehurst
JohnWhitehurst

@aztecian @HeatherOMalley @TIME 

Right that is where Obamas come from, Sheila  J ackson Lee , Maxine waters. Fair My arse, An Idiot given a Diploma one they do  not work for. It is an Insult to blacks  who work for it.

Still committing 50 Percent  of the crime back then and  now.

At least Sharp ton said what it was  "CHECK" As in money trillions thrown out the window..

Openminded1
Openminded1

@aztecian @Openminded1 You really are stupid, Rev Al and Jackson have done nothing but line there own pockets exploiting there own people, they have be come rich off poor blacks. They have accused people like you do of being racist in the media and it backfired many times, Tawana Brawley remember her as one example and many more. They cause racial divide it makes them money. And Obama has also been good for racial divide, Trayvon could have been or could have been my son what bull crap. He is the President he should have kept is big mouth shut. He is suppose to be President of the United States not just Black America. I have done more for blacks the Al or jessie, I did not make money off black people, I protected black people and whites and hispanics and all kinds of people. Not just blacks like Obama he could have been a great man but he chose to be just a black man and further racial tensions. He ended upp not being the great black hope just another brother who had a chance and blew it like most black politicians.

aztecian
aztecian

@Openminded1 @aztecian rev Al, J and Obama have done amazing work to advance all colored people and help to create a more level playing field, which is way far from being level.  at least they are doing something for their people.  you on the other hand are a total disgrace!!!