History Essay - March on Washington Movement 1941-1946

Published: 2021-08-11
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Wesleyan University
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The march on Washington movement had been organized by activists Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph. The campaign was used as a tool to produce a mass march on Washington D.C. The real reason as to why the march was designed was to pressure the United States government into eliminating armed forces policies and as such providing fair working conditions for African American. Randolph and other collaborators called off the march movement in the year 1941. This was when President Roosevelt had issued an executive order 8802, prohibiting discrimination in the defense industry under the federal agencies contract. Randolph pushed on to promote non-violent activities to advance in the goals of having fair working conditions for the African American people. It is this push that influenced Martin Luther and some other younger men to push for the same. Martin Luther, 1961

Leaders, Driving forces and primary participants behind the march on Washington movement

James l. Farmer Jr who was a national director in the Congress of Racial Equality was a founder member of the Congress. The congress was an interaction coalition that was created in 1941. The alliance had challenged the law by breaking it, building upon Mahatma Gandhis tactics on non- violent protests and passive resistance that staged direct action protests from sit-ins to freedom rides. As a leader in the coalition, he continued to lead by example by promoting equality.

A Philip Randolph, a president of Negro American Labor Council was the elder statesman of the Civil rights movement; he was the principal visionary behind the march on Washington. He dedicated his entire life to organizing workers, Randolph brought about unwavering socialist vision to the civil rights struggle.

Whitney Young, an executive director the in the National Urban League, represented one of the oldest and largest civil rights organizations. He devoted his career to studying the conditions of urban life for African American. He used to document urban poverty and influence public policy through social surveys on housing, nutrition, and education.

John R Lewis, a director in the Student Non-Violent coordinating committee was the youngest member of the Washington movement. He was arrested 24 times for his activism that was meant to stop the discrimination of African American people.

Martin Luther King. President, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Luther was a civil rights leader in the country, America had heard about Martin Luthers work with the Montgomery bus boycott and witnessed the shocking images of dogs and fire hose turned on kids in Birmingham. As a President of Christian leadership king moved quickly to sites of civil rights struggle and brought leadership experience and media attention to local campaigns. He helped in coordinating nonviolent protests occurring across the nation by working with civil rights groups that existed.

Who may have been excluded from the march on Washington movement

Communists may have played a significant role in pushing for the movement but were never included. Randolph used various tactics to avoid having communist to be part of the march on Washington movement. He was aware it would have caused difficulties in gaining support for the larger goal of African American. He provided restrictions on membership to African American, even if the black communists were to participate only a small percentage of the communists were allowed. Brace, John H (1991). Just a few of the disciplined communist's party members were black.

Overarching goals of march on Washington movement

The Washington movement was geared to having job freedom for all. The blacks were being neglected regardless of their skills and training undergone. Some government training programs had excluded blacks based on their being refused entry to defense industries, many skilled black workers with proper training were unable to gain employment due to discrimination. Jones & William,2013. In 1940 the president of North American Aviation Company was heard saying that while they were in complete sympathy with the black people, it was against the company policy to employ Negroes as aircraft workers or mechanics regardless of their training. That, there will be some jobs of janitors for black people. This made the push for activism to let every citizen have equality in accessing different roles in the national capital.

They wanted to defend democracy. African American resented calls to protect democracy against racism while having to deal with different types of discrimination in all sectors of life and business.

What was being targeted by the movement

The movement was orchestrated to attempt to put pressure on the United States government. Their target pushed the government to establish policies and protections against employment discrimination as the nation was preparing for war. The movement wanted to pass the importance of lower class and middle-class members recognition while fighting for Negro rights in national defense.

Lasting impacts of the march on Washington movement

I believe that since the movement was in play, there has been an improvement in having job freedom. Democracy has been defended to a higher level as well as discrimination being reduced


Jones, William P. The March on Washington: Jobs, freedom, and the forgotten history of civil rights. WW Norton & Company, 2013.

Bracey, John H., and August Meier. "Allies or Adversaries? The NAACP, A. Philip Randolph and the 1941 March on Washington." The Georgia Historical Quarterly 75.1 (1991): 1-17.

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