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The March on Washington

Jobs, Freedom, and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights

William P. Jones (Author)


“Vivid and moving. . . . [Tells] a story all but lost in most civil rights histories.”—Bill Marvel, Dallas Morning News

It was the final speech of a long day, August 28, 1963, when hundreds of thousands gathered on the Mall for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In a resounding cadence, Martin Luther King Jr. lifted the crowd when he told of his dream that all Americans would join together to realize the founding ideal of equality. The power of the speech created an enduring symbol of the march and the larger civil rights movement. King’s speech still inspires us fifty years later, but its very power has also narrowed our understanding of the march. In this insightful history, William P. Jones restores the march to its full significance.

The opening speech of the day was delivered by the leader of the march, the great trade unionist A. Philip Randolph, who first called for a march on Washington in 1941 to press for equal opportunity in employment and the armed forces. To the crowd that stretched more than a mile before him, Randolph called for an end to segregation and a living wage for every American. Equal access to accommodations and services would mean little to people, white and black, who could not afford them. Randolph’s egalitarian vision of economic and social citizenship is the strong thread running through the full history of the March on Washington Movement. It was a movement of sustained grassroots organizing, linked locally to women’s groups, unions, and churches across the country. Jones’s fresh, compelling history delivers a new understanding of this emblematic event and the broader civil rights movement it propelled.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • August 2014
  • ISBN 978-0-393-34941-2
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 320 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Endorsements & Reviews

“A tour de force. . . . [Jones] provides great food for thought as the nation faces race relations in the twenty-first century.” — Patti Brown, Iowa Republican

“Provides an alternative to the standard account by stressing the part played in the movement by unions and women’s groups.” — Louis Menand, The New Yorker

““[A] fresh take on events leading to the 1963 March on Washington.” — Los Angeles Times

“Enlightening.” — Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch

“Indispensable. . . . . Rediscovers the inextricable links between the civil rights movement and the cause of economic justice.” — Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy

“Jones thoroughly recovers the radical reality of the events leading up to the march, as well as the march itself.” — Moshe Z. Marvit, Washington Monthly

“Jones gets past the heroic myths and provides us with the history we need not just to celebrate the march but to understand it. This is the single best book on that historic event to date.” — Eric Arnesen, The George Washington University

“A magnificent work of historical reconstruction. . . . Jones provides a rich, robust understanding of the meaning of the march.” — Michael Honey, author of Going Down Jericho Road

“A masterful history. . . . Will Jones’s deeply satisfying book makes the history of the march whole and demonstrates the depth of change its participants embraced.” — Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore, author of Defying Dixie

“One of the great moments in American history becomes fresh again. Peeling away layers of myth, Jones shows the deep roots of the march in a tradition of African-American labor struggle.” — Joshua Freeman, author of American Empire

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