The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, gestures during his "I Have a Dream" speech as he addresses thousands of civil rights supporters gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 1963. Actor-singer Sammy Davis Jr. can be seen at extreme right, bottom. (AP Photo)
WASHINGTON (AP) - Numerous exhibits and programs in the nation's capital will allow visitors to retrace the historic steps of the 1963 March on Washington 50 years later.
Several museums and cultural organizations have organized artifacts and art exhibits for visitors to learn about the march, the nation's conflict over civil rights and the tumult leading up to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
At the Newseum, curators focused on the unique role of students in helping to lead the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. The museum about journalism and the First Amendment features a section of the original Woolworth's lunch counter from Greensboro, N.C., where four black college students launched a sit-in after being denied service because of their race.
A short video documentary highlights some of the key players and moments of the era.
"Unlike the Smithsonian or elsewhere, we are looking at history through the lens of the First Amendment," said Newseum video producer Frank Bond. That led curators beyond the role of journalists to also look at student leaders who fought for civil rights.
"The free press, yes, covered their exploits," Bond said. "But it was speech and assembly that they took upon themselves as constitutional rights to fight what they felt was an unjust system, which was the Jim Crow system of segregation."
At the time, John Lewis, now a Georgia congressman, told his fellow students they needed to be loud and visible to change the country. "You've got to get out there and push and organize and agitate and stand up and make some noise," he said, leading curators to the focus for the exhibit.
The Newseum also is launching a three-year changing exhibit called "Civil Rights at 50," which will be updated each year with key milestones in the civil rights movement. The year 1963 opened with Alabama Gov. George Wallace declaring "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." And that summer, he stood in a University of Alabama doorway to try to block two black students from attending class.
That was June. By August of that year, more than 200,000 people were marching on the National Mall, demanding justice, jobs and freedom.
The Newseum pulled together news coverage from the time. Much of the Northern press coverage was positive, curators noted, while Southern newspapers often disagreed with the march's mission. After the march, a Jackson Clarion-Ledger front-page headline declared: "Washington is Clean again with Negro Trash Removed."