The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom turns 50 today. A new PBS documentary reveals the details of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described would be considered the “greatest demonstration for freedom” in American history. Narrated by Oscar-winning actor Denzel Washington, The March dedicates the majority of the 55 minute running time to the build-up of the momentous event (see clip below).
Some 250,000 people gathered in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963, to raise awareness of the poor economic realities of African-Americans and to demand the passage of strong civil rights legislation. Clayborne Carson, a professor of history at Stanford University, was just 19 when he attended the march. “Every time I think back, I draw different meanings from it because of my subsequent experiences,” Carson told theGrio.com. “At the time I would not have fully understood the significance of what Dr. King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech.”
Carson, whose commentary is featured in The March, is also the director of Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. He says America does not have a good track record when it comes to understanding what King stood for. “The main thing we’ve gotten right is that he deserves a national holiday,” Carson said. “He was the most prominent figure in one of the most important movements in American history.”