I can see what he’s telling the group. The Reflecting Pool
is surrounded by a large grass strip and although everybody at this moment is probably trying to get in as close as they can to the steps to see the faces of the movie stars and the other prominent speakers, it’s necessary probably to use the public address system to get these people not to approach any more the Monument
steps itself but to really go down along the Reflecting Pool
, quite a long distance perhaps more than five average city blocks long.
A wide grass area, very well shaded for those who want to get out of the sun and they are able then to perhaps hear but not see as much they’re trying to push in right on the steps. And, of course, this is something they don’t want to have happen and through the public address system, they’re trying to urge these people to take spaces along the grass area. Now, Al, is that the way you see it from your point right there at Lincoln? Apparently, he’s not at his microphone.
And, we would hope from time to time he does leave it and go out and try to capture some of these dignitaries who are assembling there in the chairs. And we’ll see if he can get back and bring us some of the people who are assembling there. We have a tape recording that was prepared earlier that has a certain reflection on what this March on Washington today means to Roy Wilkins. Let’s listen to that at this time.
The year of 1963 is particularly fitting for this explosion of concern on the part of Negro American citizens and their friends over the failure to attain full citizenship rights in a full century. For it was a hundred years ago that the Amendments to the Constitution were enacted. The 13th, 14th and 15th, which granted citizenship, which granted equal protection of the laws, and which granted the right to vote. And the last hundred years have been marked by systematic, deliberate and massive, and I might add successful effort to negate the Constitutional Amendments.
The Negro never won his full right to vote, and the South has not yet won it. He is just now beginning in the last ten years to enjoy assemblance of equal protection of the laws, and he has had affirmed only since 1954 the fact that the Constitution of the United States is color blind. Because in 1896, the Supreme Court said that the separate but equal doctrine satisfied Constitutional Requirements. Now, after the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in 1954 the Negro waited rather patiently for the implementation of his new citizenship status, but it became apparent very shortly that an effort was underway actively in the South and by a sort of acquiescence in the North to defeat him, once more on his aspirations with respect to the
So, even though he had his status affirmed, he was not yet to enjoy it. This was when the sit-ins broke out and the direct action marches began, and the protests began to take the place of reasonable discussion around tables. And the slow processes through the courts and the legislative halls. And, of course, in that time the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People functioned in what we consider to be a most basic way. From 1909 up until 1954, it painstakingly laid the groundwork in the law and in the Constitution for the Negro’s liberation from the status of separate but unequal.
And the long campaign was climaxed in 1954, but in between rights were won as to voting, registration, housing, employment, picketing and education as well as the administration of justice involving serving on juries and equality before the law. The NAACP, therefore, laid the groundwork for the direct action programs of the past few years. They have made it possible for picketing, marching, and demonstration on behalf of rights. And the Association is delighted that more than half of the sit-ins arrested consisted of NAACP young people.
And, the bail money put up was put up by NAACP branches. And that along with other organizations it brought us to the spring of 1963
when Birmingham and other demonstrations over the South and again in the North pointed up the necessity of taking the case finally to the seat of government itself, to the Congress of the United States, to Washington, DC
And it was thus that the March on Washington was conceived. Its first purpose is to call attention to the disproportionate rate of unemployment among Negroes in this country, which is two and a half times, sometimes three times as great as that among white people, to their lack of training, to the failure of retraining programs to reach them, to their exclusion from apprenticeship training courses sponsored by unions, by the government and by others. And, to their denial of work opportunities in certain white collar and technical fields, and in the building trades and certain other categories.
The second purpose of the March and close behind the first one is to support the enactment of the President’s Civil Rights Legislation, which he proposed in late June. This consists of a package of seven Titles, Title 2 of which has to do with places of public accommodations and getting rid of racial discrimination in hotels and motels and theaters and restaurants and other public places. And, one Title has to do with protecting further the right to vote, and extending the authority of the government to intervene in these cases.
Another Title has to do with desegregation of the public schools and the granting of additional powers to the Attorney General in this respect. Another has to do with permission to the President to withhold federal funds from areas that do continue to segregate, and sundry other matters. Not included in the package is an FEPC, Fair Employment Practice bill, which we regard as being essential and which the March will support.
And the whole demonstration in Washington
is designed to impress upon the Capitol of the nation, and thus upon the people of the nation, the deep concern of American Negroes and their allies and churches and unions and other organizations of the country over the continued denial of their basic citizenship rights. The March came about, as I have indicated, because of frustration over the normal channels of communication, and attainment and redress of grievances.
What will be the outcome? Well, it’s hard to say. The future couldn’t be any worse than the past because the Negroes have suffered terrible deprivation in the past. The little told story of how they have been deprived of educational opportunity is one that if told would justify all the means they have employed to bring their plight to the attention of the American people. For generations of young people, young Negro children, have been crippled for life and have had guaranteed that in ten years from now, they will not be able to function as efficient citizens.
The outcome of the March is bound to be the enactment of Civil Rights Legislation in line with what President Kennedy has suggested with some amendments, of course. It’s inevitable that the Congress would permit this package to go through as-is. But we’re hoping that the Amendments will be for strengthening the package rather than weakening it. Another outcome of the March will be the enlightenment of white citizens of America on the continued plight of the Negro, and a sort of new appreciation of the Negro’s status as a citizen. A third outcome will be the effect upon the Negro himself. He will be encouraged to become a whole citizen.
And, I’m confident that he will assume the responsibilities of whole citizenship, and that he will become more so than he has been to date. And, he has been in many instances a very stable citizen. He will become a stable element in the community, and his children will achieve. And, he will come to believe in the country not simply philosophically because he knows democracy is the best system in the world? But, he will believe in it because it works for him, and this is the strongest belief that we could have in this country and the strongest guarantee that our country will survive as a democracy.
That was Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the NAACP, one of the people that we’ll be hearing speaking live this afternoon from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
as part of this program. Before we switch to Boston for the latest news developments because other things are happening the world today besides this March on Washington, which is so important to us today. Let us give you some other information.
For one thing, the temperature in Washington
has now reached 77 degrees, and this has caused some health problems. Dr. Heath of the Health Department announces that six people now have been treated at the DC General Hospital, but nothing is serious. There have been several cots used in the Red Cross tents for people who have wearied along the parade route, and there is one child separated from the rest of his family.
We would like to point out that the Police Department urged the committee for this March not to allow anybody under seventeen to participate in these demonstrations. In fact, they told them to keep them home. But, just in case some of them showed up, and perhaps this is a local Washington
youth, there is circulating among all the marchers a Youth Corps made up of young ladies and men who are looking out for children who might be lost and treating some of the younger children that perhaps tire before the adults do in this long March.
And, we just had a report that a man and a woman have fainted at Washington Monument
grounds and, of course, are being taken to a Red Cross tent and then to a hospital. The police are refusing to upgrade at this moment at least their size or estimate of the crowd here. They now have 110,000 marchers, and that’s the latest figures.
But the traffic reports from police headquarters indicate that buses are still bumper-to-bumper coming in Wisconsin Avenue from the northwest and coming up the south into Washington
. So there are still a lot of people who had hoped to be here by this time and who have not yet arrived. Before we go to Boston for the news, let’s go back to Al Hulsen on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial
Just to mention, George that the heat is beginning to take its toll here at the Lincoln Memorial
. We’ve seen in the past few minutes several people being looked at over the green snow fence, put on stretchers, and taken away to the first aid tents. I believe none of these cases are serious. It’s simply the heat and the closeness, the lack of air. The people are still coming in toward the Memorial, but at a very, very slow pace.
The proverbial snail’s pace but as far back as I can see in any direction in front of the Memorial there are nothing but people. Overhead many helicopters are still flying. These are the police helicopters of the traffic control people and in some cases the newsmen. It does seem to becoming a little bit hazy here, but I don’t think there is any sign of any rain. George, the dignitaries are virtually all on the stage. We can hardly see them, however, with the crowd of newsmen around here.
It seems like the delay is being caused solely by the news people. Cameras everywhere, microphones everywhere, and as we heard earlier from the Press Secretary this is probably the biggest news coverage of any event that ever took place in Washington
. We have with us just before we go to Boston for that news, Dave Edwards, one of our reporters. He has just come from the Washington Monument
. Dave, how easy was it to get here?