Thank you very much. I have here in my hand a scroll, which as you can see is rather poorly and inadequately wrapped, but it contains a statement that I would like to read to you which is neither poor nor inadequate. I bring it here with me from Paris
where I’ve been working. A few days ago in Paris a group of citizens like yourself and me, Americans, gathered together and had a march of their own. They marched to the American Embassy where they were very courteously and graciously received by the Ambassador. And there they drafted a collective statement indicating their support for the march here today. I have some 1,500 names here.
Can I have it please, fellows? Thank you. I want to read an expression of Americans in Europe who read in the papers there everyday about the problems going on here. They couldn’t come here. Many of them work there. Many of them are traveling through. Many of them are attending school, but they are Americans. They are American citizens. They have the same feeling in their hearts and in their minds for the problems that bring us all here today at this moment. Let me read what they say. “We the undersigned hereby publicly express our support of the March on Washington Movement, which aspires not only to eradicate all racial barriers in American life, but to liberate all Americans from the prison of their biases and their fears.
So considered, the March on Washington Movement becomes one of the most amazing demonstrations for human dignity within living memory. We cannot physically participate in this march. But we like the rest of the world have been tremendously stirred by so disciplined an exhibition of dignity, and courage and persistence. All Americans traveling no matter where in the world today are in the position of ambassadors, and are very often made bitterly aware of our country’s reputation. It is not easy to be an American abroad.
Nor is it easy to make coherent to those who are not Americans the nature and the meaning of our struggle, and we are therefore forever indebted to those Americans represented by the March on Washington Movement for giving us so stunningly an example of what America aspires to become and for helping us to redefine in the middle of this dangerous century what is meant by the American Revolution.
We recognize that it is not only in America that the battle for freedom and dignity of peoples is being waived. The struggle toward freedom on the part of the previously subjugated is occurring in capitols and villages all over the world. It is on our awareness of what this struggle means, and in the degree of our dedication to it that our future and the future of the world depends. I just want to turn this over to Ossie and ask him if he will be kind enough to pass it onto the official body here so they will know about it.
Thank you, Burt Lancaster. I accept the scroll from the people of Paris for the people of Washington, DC
in the name of the Committee for the March on Washington. I would like now to introduce one man who will speak for the artists who have come to be with us today from Hollywood
and Broadway. Some came from Canada
. Some flew in from Chicago
. They are from all over, but they are the people whom we have seen and whom we love, and they want this opportunity to give you their feelings about the March on Washington and what it means. I give you Mr. Harry Belafonte.
Mr. Burt Lancaster just referred to a scroll that he brought here from Paris with 1,500 names on it from fellow artists who could not be here with us today. However, although they’re not here in body, they’re here in spirit and there are many of us who were fortunate enough to be able to come here today with our bodies. I’d like to read off some of the names that are here today because most of them I cannot get to due to the length of the program and the length of the afternoon’s activities.
And I’d like to just read some of them because this is the first time in the history of a major civil rights gathering, and especially this one in Washington, DC
that such artists have come forth. Mr. Marlon Brando. Mr. Tony Franciosa
, Mr. James Garner
, Ms. Rita Moreno
, Mr. Frank Silvera
, Mr. Sammy Davis
, Jr., Mr. John Killins
, Ms. Joanne Woodward
, Ms. Susan Strasberg
, Mr. Joe Mankiewicz
, Mr. Steve Cochran
, Mr. Burt Lancaster, Mr. Robert Ryan
, Mr. Sidney Poitier
, Ms. Diahann Carroll
, Mr. Gregory Peck
, Mr. Anthony Quinn
, Mr. Paul Newman
, Mr. Charlton Heston
, Mr. Irwin Shaw
, Mr. Bob Paris, Mr. James Baldwin
, Ms. Lena Horne
, Ms. Ruby Dee
As I said before, this is just a partial reading of a number of artists who have in spirit and have in body supported the activities here today. I also have a statement to read on behalf of the Cultural Contingent, and it says, and all the names that I have just read to you endorse this statement. We are here today a witness to what we know. We know that this country, America, to which we are committed and which we love aspires to become that country in which all men are free. We also know that freedom is not license. Everyone in a democracy ought to be free to vote. But no one has the license to oppress or demoralize another.
We also know, or we would not be here, that the American Negro has endured for many generations in this country, which he helped to build, the most intolerable injustices. To be a Negro in this country means several unpleasant things. In the deep South
it often means that he is prevented from exercising his right to vote by all manner of intimidation up to and including death. This fact of intimidation is a great weight in the life of any Negro and though it varies in degree it never varies in intent, which is simply to limit, to demoralize, and to keep in subservient status more than 20 million Negro people.
We are here, therefore, to protest this evil and to make known our resolve to do everything we can possibly do to bring it to an end. As artists and as human beings we rejoice in the knowledge that human experience has no color and that excellence in any endeavor is the fruit of individual labor and love, and we believe that artists have a valuable function in any society since it is the artists who reveal the society to itself. But we also know that any society which ceases to respect the human aspirations of all its citizens courts political chaos and artistic sterility.
We need the energies of these people to whom we have for so long denied full humanity. We need their vigor, their joy, the authority which their pain has brought them. In cutting ourselves off from them, we are punishing and diminishing ourselves. As long as we do so, our society is in great danger. Our growth as artists is severely menaced and no American can boast of freedom, for he cannot be considered an example of it. We are here then in an attempt to strike the chains which bind the ex-master no less than the ex-slave, and to invest with reality that deep and universal longing, which has sometimes been called, “The American Dream.”
We might mention here at the Lincoln Memorial
that those ten leaders include A. Philip Randolph, Director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and nine others. The one person who was expected to be here and is not in attendance is James Farmer
, the National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality. He will be represented among the big ten by Floyd McKissick
, National Chairman of CORE.
Others in this group are Walter Reuther
, President of the United Automobile Workers; Dr. Eugene Carson Blake
, the Stated Cleric of the United Presbyterian Church of the United States of America; Rabbi Uri Miller
, President of the Synagogue Council of America; Whitney M. Young
, Jr., Executive Director the National Urban League; Mathew Ahmann, Executive Director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial
Justice; Roy Wilkins
, Executive Secretary, National Association of the Advancement of Colored People; Rabbi Prinz, President of the American Jewish Congress; and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King
, Jr., President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
This formal program, which was expected to begin at 2:00 is probably going to begin promptly at that time. More and more people are beginning to feel the results of the heat here and of the close quarters, particularly those up front right near the Lincoln Memorial
. Every few moments, it seems that someone is being lifted over the fence to the Red Cross people, put on a stretcher and taken to one of the first aid tents. Another woman has just been brought over the fence.
Some time ago, they were passing out ice cubes to these people that are feeling the pressure of the crowd that goes back one mile to the Washington Monument
. This helped apparently to some extent. There’s a lot of noise here, a lot of people talking, a lot of people clapping. Particularly, right here you hear typewriters and telephones from the news people. A lot of planes are going over. The Washington National Airport is just a short distance away. There is absolutely no space left here. All the seats that were prepared for the dignitaries on the steps and platforms of the Lincoln Memorial
are entirely filled.
And now here is Mr. A. Philip Randolph, the Director of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. All around here those people that had been seated are now standing applauding Mr. Randolph who was given credit for originating the idea of a March on Washington. And as we said, sometime ago back in 1941 he originated the idea of a march; a march that wasn’t carried out because he did receive his demand from President Roosevelt to assure no racial discrimination in defense plants.