Part 12 of 17
Oratory from Walter Reuther
One of the ten leaders speaking here at the Lincoln Memorial today, John Lewis, Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee chairman. It's interesting to note that his speech has changed somewhat from the prepared text given to the press earlier today. He had a very strong statement that has been eliminated, and the speech was just delivered. In the prepared text, he said in good conscience, we cannot support the administration's civil rights bill for it's too little, and too late.
Fellow Americans, I want to acknowledge the presence of some 300 young Negroes from Mississippi, who have come to this great demonstration against race bias. They are in the audience out there. There they are.
Applause for the students, who have arrived here from Mississippi.
Fellow Americans, I now have the opportunity and pleasure to present to you a great American, Walter Reuther, President of the United Automobile Worker of America, and Vice President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, Walter Reuther.
Mr. Randolph, fellow Americans and friends, I am here today with you because with you I share the view that the struggle for civil rights, and the struggle for equal opportunity is not the struggle of Negro Americans, but the struggle for every American to join in.
For 100 years, the Negro people searched for first-class citizenship. I believe that they cannot and should not wait until some distant tomorrow. They should command freedom now, here and now. It is the responsibility of every American to share the impatience of the Negro Americans.
And we need to join together, to march together, and to work together until we have bridged the mortal gap between American democracy's noble promises, and its ugly practices in the field of civil rights. American democracy has been too long on pious platitudes, and too short on practical performances in this important area.
Now one of those problems is what I call, that there are too much high octane, hypocrisy Americans. There is a lot of local talk about brotherhood, and then some Americans drop the brother and keep the hood. To me, the civil rights fight is a moral fight, which transcends partisan politics, and this rally today should be the first step in a total effort to mobilize the moral conscience of America, and to ask the people in congress of both parties to rise above the partisan differences, and enact civil rights legislation now.
Now, the president, President Kennedy, has offered a comprehensive and moderate bill. That bill is the first meaningful step. It needs to be strengthened, it needs FEPC, and other stronger provisions, and the job question is crucial because we will not solve education or housing or public accommodations, as long as millions of Americans, Negroes are treated as second-class economic citizens and denied jobs.
And as one American, I take the position if we can have full employment, and full production for the negative ends of war, then why can't we have a job for every American in the pursuit of peace. And so our slogan has got to be fair employment, but fair employment within the framework of full employment, so that every American can have a job.
I am for civil rights, as a matter of human decency, as a matter of common morality. But I am also for civil rights because I believe that freedom is an indivisible value that no one can be free unto himself. And when Bull Connor with his police dogs and fire hoses destroys freedom in Birmingham, he is destroying my freedom in Detroit. And let us keep in mind, since we are the strongest of the free nations of the world, since you cannot make your freedom secure, accepting as we make freedom universal, so all may enjoy its blessings, let us understand that we cannot defend freedom in Berlin, so long as we deny freedom in Birmingham.
This rally is not the end, it's the beginning. It's the beginning of a great moral crusade to arouse America to the unfinished work of American democracy. The congress has to act. And after they act, we have much work to do in the vineyards of American democracy in every community.
Men of good will must join together, men of all races, and creed, and color, and political persuasion, and motivated by the spirit of human brotherhood. We must search for answers in the light of reason through rational and responsible actions. Because if we fail, the vacuum of our failure will be filled by the apostles of hatred, who will search in the dark of night, and reason will yield to riots, and brotherhood will yield to bitterness, and bloodshed, and we will tear asunder the fabric of American democracy.
So let this be the beginning of that great crusade to mobilize the moral conscious of America, so that we can freedom, and justice, and equality, and first-class citizen for every American not just for certain Americans, not only in certain parts of America, but in every part of America from Boston to Birmingham from New York to New Orleans, and from Michigan to Mississippi. Thank you.
Tremendous applause here at the Lincoln Memorial for Walter Reuther, President of the United Automobile Workers. There are many signs evident here letting us know that there are many union members attending this March.
Dear friends, our friends that you now see here have walked 250 miles to come here.
The crowd seems to be getting more active here, waving hands more vigorously, more applause, more shouting, and as we heard before, the chant "pass it now, pass the civil rights bill now." Chairing this formal program here at the Lincoln Memorial is A. Philip Randolph, the 74-year-old director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, as it's officially called.
I am glad to report to you that the official count is that we have over 200,000 Negro and white present.
There's the report you heard earlier from George Geesey over 200,000 participating in this March.
And they are still coming into Washington.
Floyd McKissick delivers James Farmer's prepared statement
People are all looking now toward the Washington Monument.
Our next speaker –
And they see that the crowd does stretch all the way from here to there.
Everybody take your seats. Our next speaker is Mr. Floyd McKissick, National Chairman of Congress on Racial Equality. He is speaking instead of our good friend and brother, James Farmer, who is now in prison in Plaquemine, Louisiana. We all give up our prayers on behalf of our brother, Jim Farmer. We will now hear from Brother McKissick.
The message that I shall give to you today was written by Jim Farmer from a Plaquemine jail, and I shall quote his message now. From a South Louisiana Parish jail, I salute the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Two hundred and thirty-two freedom fighters jail with me in Plaquemine, Louisiana also send their greetings.
I wanted to be with you with all my heart on this great day. My imprisoned brothers and sisters wanted to be there too. I cannot come out of jail while they are still in for their crime was the same as mine, demanding freedom now. And most of them will not come out of jail until the charges are dropped or their sentences served. I cannot let the heroic Negro citizens of Plaquemine down by leaving them now while they are behind bars. I know that you will understand my absence. So we cannot be with you today in body, but we are with you in spirit.
By marching on Washington, your trampin’ feet have spoken the message, the message of our struggle in Louisiana. You have given notice of the struggles of our people in Mississippi and Alabama too, and in California, and in New York, and Chicago, and in Brooklyn. You have come from all over the nation, and in one mighty voice, you have spoken to the nation.
You have also spoken to the world. You have said to the world by your presence here, as our successful direct action in numberless citizens has said that in the age of thermal nuclear bombs, violence is outmoded to the solution of the problems of men. It is the truth that needs to be shouted loudly. And no one else any where in the world is saying it, as well as the American Negros through their non-violent direct action.
The tear gas and the electric cattle prods of Plaquemine, Louisiana like the fire hoses and dogs of Birmingham are giving to the world a tired and ugly message of terror and brutality and hate. Theirs is a message of pitiful hopelessness from little and unimaginative men to a world that fears for its life. It is not that they to whom the world is listening today, it is to American Negros.
Our direct action method is bringing down barriers all over the country, in jobs, in housing, in schools, in public places is giving hope to the world to peoples who are weary of warfare, and who see extinction hovering over the future like an ominous mushroom cloud. If we can solve our problem, and remove the heavy heel of oppression from our necks with our methods, then man has no problems anywhere in the world, which cannot be solved without death.
So we are fighting not only for our rights, and our freedom, we are fighting not only to make our nation safe for democracy it preaches, we are fighting also to give our old world a fighting chance for survival. We are fighting to give millions of babies yet unborn, black, white, yellow and brown a chance to see day, and to carry on the battle to remove the night of hate, hunger and disease from the world. You, thus, are at the center of world's stage.
Play well your roles in your struggle for freedom. In the thousands of communities from which you have come throughout the land, act with valor, and dignity, and act without fear. Some of us may die like William L. Moore or Medgar Evers, but our war is for life, not for death, and we will not stop our demand for freedom now. We will not slow down. We will not stop our militant, peaceful demonstrations. We will not come off of the streets until we can work at a job befitting of our skills in any place in the land.
We will not stop our marching feet until our kids have enough to eat, and their minds can study a wide range without being cramped in Jim Crow schools. Until we live wherever we choose, and can eat, and play with no closed doors blocking our way, we will not stop the dogs that are biting us in the south, and the rats that are biting in the north. We will not stop until the heavy weight of centuries of oppression is removed from our backs, and like proud men everywhere, when we can stand tall together again.
That is Jim Farmer's message. May I add that may this day be a day of beginning for us, but may we rededicate ourselves to the most effective weapon that we have, and that we have achieved success by. That is the weapon of direct, non-violent action. Go back to your homes, do not be misled, and carry on the fight to free all Americans, black and white.
The prepared address of James Farmer read by Floyd McKissick, National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality. A note here from Reporter Dave Edwards, Mr. Edwards will have an exclusive interview with Senator Hubert Humphrey at the conclusion of this special program.
The song is, "Freedom, a Thing Worth Thinking About." So Louis-- Andrew Frierson, baritone, and Bill Dillard, trumpet.
You might point out, Al, that from police headquarters, we've had a report now from Mike Rice that about 17 buses have returned to Union Station carrying about 900 people back to their trains, so that some of this crowd can get out of Washington before nightfall.
Performance by the Eva Jessye Choir
George, it hardly seems that way here. From our vantage point at the Lincoln Memorial, it seems as though more people are coming. The crowd seems to be thickening up here at the edges of the reflecting pools. There seems to be more movement, more activity – now let's go back to the stage.
[SINGING "FREEDOM: A THING WORTH THINKING ABOUT"]
The Eva Jessye Choir entertaining the group assembled at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
We invite you to stay tuned now, as we hear further highlights by the ERN of this afternoon's March for Freedom. WGBH-FM 89.7 megacycles in Boston.
[TAPE SKIPS AND CUTS]
Oratory from Whitney M. Young, Jr.
Our next speaker is the brilliant Executive Director of the National Urban League, Whitney M. Young, Jr., one of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
Brother Randolph, fellow Americans, the National Urban League is honored to be a participant in this historic occasion. Our presence here not only reflects the civil rights community, increased respect for and awareness of the Urban League's role, but most important it says, and I hope loud and clear that while intelligence, maturity, and strategy dictates that as civil rights agencies, we use different methods, we are all united, as never before on the goal our first class citizenship for all Americans now.
That we meet here today in common cause, not as white people nor as black people nor as members of any particular group, as a tribute to those Americans, who dared to live up and to practice our democratic ideals, and our religious heritage. That we meet here today is a tribute also to all black Americans, who for 100 years have continued in peaceful and orderly protest to bear witness to our deep faith in America. And in this method of protest to affect change.
That we meet here at all, however, is to shame of some, who have always blocked the progress of the brown American. And to the shame of those would make deals, would water down civil rights legislation or take cowardly refuge in technical details around elementary human rights. And who would even now, delay until after Christmas the consideration of these bills before congress.
One should not seek here to atone for his past failures, as a responsible citizen of the majority group. The evils of the past, and the guilt about it cannot be erased by a one-day pilgrimage, however magnificent. Nor can this pilgrimage substitute for an obligation to tomorrow by these same citizens. And so this March must go beyond this historic moment for the true test of the rededication, and the commitment, which should flow from this meeting will be in recognition that however impressed or however incensed, our congressional representatives are by this demonstration.
They will not act because of it alone. We must support the strong. We must give courage to the timid. We must remind the indifferent, and we must warn the opposed. Civil rights, which are God-given, and constitutionally guaranteed, are not negotiable in 1963.
Furthermore, we must work together, even more closely back home where the job must be done to see that Negro Americans are accepted as first-class citizens, and that they are enabled to do some more marching. They must march from the rat-infested, over-crowded ghettos to decent, wholesome, unrestricted residential areas disbursed throughout our cities. They must march from the relief roles to the established re-training centers, from under employment, as unskilled workers to higher occupations commensurate with our skills.
They must march from the cemeteries where our young, our newborn died three times sooner, and our parents died seven years earlier. They must march from there to establish health and welfare centers. They must march from the congested ill-equipped schools, which breed dropouts, and which smother motivation to the well-equipped integrated facilities throughout the cities.
They must march from the play areas in crowded and unsafe streets to the newly opened areas in the parks and recreational centers. And finally, they must march from a present feeling of despair and hopelessness, despair and frustration to a renewed faith and confidence due to intangible programs and visible changes made possible only by walking together, to the PTA meetings, to the libraries, to the decision-making bodies, to the schools and the colleges, to the adult education centers for all age groups, to the voter registration booth.
The hour is late, the gap is widening, the rumble of the drums of discontent resounding throughout this land are heard in all parts of the world. The missions we send there to keep the world safe for democracy are shallow symbols unless with them goes the living testament that this country practices at home, the doctrine, which it seeks to promote abroad.
How serious our national leaders are will be measured not by words, but by the speed, and sincerity, with which they pass necessary legislation, with which they admit to the tragic injustice that has been done our country, and its Negro citizens by historic discrimination and rejection. And until they take intensive remedial steps to correct the damage in order to give true meaning to the words equal opportunity, this is the real significance of our march today, August 28, 1963. Our march is a march for America. It is a march just begun.
Oratory from Roy Wilkins
The address of Whitney M. Young, Jr., Executive Director of the National Urban League. Once again, Philip Randolph.
Mr. Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Probably this is the greatest audience reaction thus far for Mr. Roy Wilkins of the NAACP.
Thank you, Mr. Randolph. First of all, I wanna thank all of you for coming here today because you save me from being a liar. I told them you would be here. They didn't believe me because you always make up your mind at the last minute, and you had me scared. But isn't it a great day? I want some of you to help me win a bet. I want everybody out here in the open to keep quiet, and I wanna hear a yell, and a thunder from all those people who are out there under the trees. Let's hear you.
And some are in the trees.
There's one of them in the tree. I just wanna let you know those of you who are sitting down front here, that there are a whole lot of people out there under the trees. My friends we are here today because we want the Congress of the United States to hear from us in person what many of us have been telling our public officials back home, and that is we want freedom now. We came here to petition our lawmakers to be as brave as our sit-ins and our marchers, to be as daring as James Meredith, to be as unafraid as the nine children of Little Rock, and to be as forthright as the governor of North Carolina, and to be as dedicated as the Archbishop of St. Louis.
We came to speak here to our congress, to those men and women, who speak here for us in that marble forum over yonder on the hill. They know from their vantage point here of the greatness of this whole nation, of its reservoirs of strength, and of the sicknesses, which threaten always to set the strength and to erode in one or another selfish and stealthy and specious fashion the precious liberty of the individual, which is the hallmark of our country among the nations of the earth.
We have come asking the enactment of legislation that will affirm the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that will place the resources, and the honor of the government of all the people behind the pledge of equality, and the Declaration of Independence. We want employment, and with it, we want the pride, and responsibility, and self-respect that goes with equal access to jobs. Therefore, we want an FEPC bill, as a part of the legislative package.
Now, for nine years, our parents and their children have been met with either a flat refusal or token action in school desegregation. Every added year of such treatment is a leg iron upon our men and women of 1980. The civil rights bill now under consideration in the congress must give new powers to the justice department to enable it to speed the end of Jim Crow schools, south and north.
We are sick of those jokes about public accommodations. We think, for example, that if Mrs. Murphy, rugged individualist that she must be, has taken her chances with the public thus far, she can get along without the solicitous protection of the august Senate of the United States. It is true, of course, that Mrs. Murphy might get a Negro traveler here and there in her boarding house or in her tourist home, but then we must remember this, she might get a white procurer or a white embezzler too. So the congress must require non-discriminatory public accommodations.
Now, my friends all over this land, and especially in parts of the deep south, we are beaten and kicked, and maltreated, and shot, and killed by local and state law enforcement officers. It is simply incomprehensible to us here today, and to millions of others far from this spot that the United States government, which can regulate the contents of a pill, apparently is powerless to prevent the physical abuse of citizens within its own borders. The attorney general must be empowered to act on his own initiative in the denial of any civil right, not just one or two, but any civil right, in order to wipe out this shameful situation.
Now, the president's proposals represent so moderate an approach that if it is weakened or eliminated, the remainder will be little more than sugar water. Indeed, as it stands today, the package needs strengthening, and the president should join us in fighting to be sure that we get something more than pap.
And finally, we here talk of protocol, and procedures, and rules, including the senate filibuster rule. Well, we have a thought on that. We declare that rules are made to enable the congress to legislate, and not to keep it from legislating, and we're tired of hearing rules cited as a reason why they can't act. We expect the passage of an effective civil rights bill.
We commend those Republicans in both houses, who are working for it. We salute those Democrats in both houses, who are working for it. In fact, we even salute those from the south, who want to vote for it, but don't dare to do so. And we say to those people, just give us a little time, and one of these days, we'll emancipate you. You get to the place where they can come to a civil rights rally too.
If those who support the bill will fight for it, as hard, and as skillfully, as the southern opposition fights against it, victory will be ours. Just by your presence here today, we have spoken loudly and eloquently to our legislators. When we return home, keep up the speaking by letter, and telegram, and telephone, and wherever possible, by a personal visit.
Remember that this has been a long fight. We were reminded of it by the news of the death yesterday in Africa of Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois. Now, regardless of the fact that in his later years Dr. Du Bois chose another path, it is incontrovertible that at the dawn of the 20th century, his was the voice that was calling to you to gather here today in this cause. If you wanna read something that applies to 1963, go back, and get a volume of the Souls of Black Folk by Du Bois published in 1903.
Well, my friends, you got religion here today, don't black slide tomorrow. Remember, Luke's account of the warning that was given to us all. No man, he wrote, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God. Thank you.
As we near the end of this, live broadcast for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom ceremonies at the Lincoln Memorial that was Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, the NAACP.
Performances by Mahalia Jackson
We will now listen to another great singer, Ms. Mahalia Jackson. She will sing at the request of Dr. Martin Luther King, "I've been buked, and I've been scorned." Ms. Mahalia Jackson.
MAHALIA JACKSON: [Singing]
A tremendous ovation here for Ms. Mahalia Jackson performing before an estimated 175,000 Americans at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The crowd is asking for another selection, and apparently, Ms. Jackson will perform.
MAHALIA JACKSON: [Singing]
The crowd is again asking for more from Mahalia Jackson.
Oratory from Rabbi Joachim Prinz
Fellow citizens, I now have the pleasure to present to you for an address, Rabbi Joachim Prinz, President, American Jewish Congress. Rabbi Prinz.
I wish I could sing. I speak to you as an American Jew. As Americans, we share the profound concern of millions of people about the shame and disgrace of inequality and injustice, which makes a mockery of the great American idea. As Jews, we bring to the great demonstrations, in which thousands of us proudly participate, a twofold experience, one of the spirit, and one of our history.
In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, He created him as everybody's neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept. It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man's dignity and integrity.
From our Jewish historic experience of three and a half thousand years, we say, our ancient history began with slavery, and the yearning for freedom. During the middle ages, my people lived for a thousand years in the ghettos of Europe. Our modern history begins with a proclamation of emancipation.
It is for these reasons that it is not merely sympathy and compassion for the black people of America that motivates us. It is above all and beyond all such sympathies and emotions a sense of complete identification and solidarity born of our own painful historic experience.
When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned in my life, and under those tragic circumstances is that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problems. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful, and the most tragic problem is silence.
A great people... A great people, which has created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality, and in the face of mass murder. America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent, not merely Black America, but all of America, it must speak up, and act from the president down to the humblest of us, and not for the sake of the Negro, not for the sake of a black community, but for the sake of the image, the dream, the idea, and the aspiration of America itself.
Our children, yours and mine, in every school across the land, every morning pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States, and to the Republic for which it stands. And then they, the children, speak fervently, and innocently of this land, as a land of liberty, and justice for all.
The time, I believe, has come to work together, for it is not enough to hope together, and it is not enough to pray together. To work together that this children's oath pronounced every morning from Maine to California from north to south, that this oath will become a glorious, unshakable reality in a morally renewed, and united America. Thank you.
Recognition of the March organizers
The President of the American Jewish Congress, Rabbi Joachim Prinz.
Fellow Americans, you ought to carry away with you a memento to indicate that you participated in a great demonstration for your own liberation. Here we have a memento known as, We Shall Overcome by one of the gifted artists of America. I hope you will get one before you leave.
Now, we have had great cooperation in developing this great movement. Some names you must remember, one is Cleveland Robinson, Secretary Treasury of District 65 RSDU, AFL-CIO, and also a Vice President of the Negro American Labor Council. He is the Chairman of the Administration Committee that handled and controlled the affairs of the march. Another name is Bayard Rustin, Manager, Director, and a gifted young man. He has marvelous capacity for the organization of men.
He and Cleveland Robinson did the real [INDISCERNABLE] work in making this movement move, and then he was assisted by a fine group of men, John Morsell, Assistant to Roy Wilkins of the NAACP. He gave brilliant support. And Gloster Current, Organization Director of NAACP, and Frank Montero, L. Joseph Overton, one of the Vice Presidents of the Negro American Labor Council, and Theodore E. Brown, one of the trade unionists, who did effective organization work in the movement.
And then there is Dr. Kilgore. Dr. Kilgore has been a tower of strength in building the movement. I wanted you to know something about these names, and then they had about 200 or 300 volunteers, who work zealously and religiously day and night to make this movement a success. I'm happy to tell you about this. And later on, Mr. Rustin will read the demands of our movement. At this time, I have the honor to present to you the moral leader of our nation, a great, dedicated man.
Introduction of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The introduction for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A philosopher of a non-violent system of behavior, and seeking to bring about social change for the advancement of justice and freedom and human dignity. I have the pleasure to present to you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
A great deal of applauding here, a great deal of waving of placards and signs. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. A chant begins, more applause. Women are waving handkerchiefs, hands are waving, as they greet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history, as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation. Five score years ago, a great American in whose symbolic shadow we stand today signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves, who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free.