Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2021
Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial closed through January 21, 2021
(photo Ch. King, 2018: Martin Luther King memorial, artist Lei Yixin, dedicated 2011, modified 2013)
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech March On Washington Lincoln Memorial 1963.
Asa Philip Randolph introduced MLK: “the moral leader of our nation”, “campaign against the citadel of racism”, “Martin Luther King”, “J.” “R.”– you can listen below in rare film clips shot on that day
photo: installation view at The Cooper Gallery Harvard, Gordon Parks exhibition 2019 by C. Ryan — Parks’ photo journalist and cinematic chops in this sea of us momentous moment, March on Washington, 1963, view from Lincoln Memorial to Washington Monument. [*Lincoln designed by Daniel Chester French unveiled 1922; Washington Monument designed by Robert Mills; completed by Thomas Casey and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, dedicated 1884.] For more about Gordon Parks work in Gloucester, Mass. see my series 2012-14 here
[photographer Thomas J. O’Halloran, aerial view of marchers, from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument, at the March on Washington, 1963, Library of Congress.]
Archival Audio and Video doc from the 1963 March
The March on Washington, 1964 film by the US Information Agency compilation for overseas from the National Archives and Records Administration collection (20 min)
Among the speakers and performers (* appear in film clip): Marian Anderson, Josephine Baker, Joan Baez* (audio early, then w/video 9:38-10:26), Harry Belafonte, Dr. Eugene Carson Blake* (16:59-17:28), Bobby Darin, Ossie Davis* (but only when he introduces Burt Lancaster 10:27), Ruby Dee (co-emcee with Ossie Davis), Bob Dylan, Freedom Singers* with choir (We shall not be moved 7:14 – 9:06), Dick Gregory, Martin Luther King Jr.* (18:18 – 18:59 press conference), Lena Horne, Mahalia Jackson, Eva Jessye Choir* (12:41 Freedom is the thing we’re talking about – Yolanda Clarke on organ), Burt Lancaster* (traveled from Paris to speak, 10:35-12:02), John Lewis* (video only – standing behind Reuther 17:29), Dr. Benjamin Mays* ( 14:34-15:36 benediction), Odetta, Peter Paul & Mary* (clips & audio of Blowin in the wind and If I had a hammer 3:18-4:33 first set), Asa Philip Randolph* (16:16-16:57 and again intro MLK 18:18), Bayard Rustin* (12:11 video only); Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth* (9:08- 9:27), Walter Reuther* (17:29-18:16), Camilla Williams (stepped up for the National Anthem; with the big crowds, Marian Anderson was too late, and would sing later in program. Williams famous, too, and worked with Jessye on Porgy & Bess.), Roy Wilkins* (13:41-14:28) and Josh White.
Opens with crowd walking and singing “we stay home and you’ll be gone…jail for more than a week, all I had was beans to eat…because my home is Danville”; do you know the song?
Parade and marching band 4:34-5:40.
Eva Jessye Choir at 7:14-9:06 with Freedom singers “We shall not be moved” and later “Freedom is the thing we’re talking about” where Eva Jessye herself can be seen directing from back. I don’t know the soloists- the gorgeous baritone, Robeson-esque at 12:36, and at 18:69 a stunning soprano soaring “We shall overcome” choir version, with crowd. The Eva Jessye Choir was the official choir for the March on Washington. Her long and storied career took off as chorus director for the Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein opera, “Four Saints in Three Acts” in 1934 and Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” the following year. She worked with Marian Anderson, Paul Robeson and more.
Notables marching with the crowd and/or mingling with dignitaries and speakers included: Faye Anderson, Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, Leon Bibb, Marlon Brando, Diahann Carroll, Tony Curtis, Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr., Tony Franciosa, James Garner, Charlton Heston, Joseph Mankiewicz, Rita Moreno, Gordon Parks, Paul Newman, Rosa Parks, Gregory Peck, Sam Peckinpah, Sidney Poitier, Jackie Robinson, Bill Russell, Robert Ryan, and Joanne Woodward. Senators present: Phillip Hart (D-Mich), Wayne Morse (D-OR), and William Proxmire (D-WI), and Mayor Wagner (NYC).
During the march, news spread that W. E. B. DuBois died the previous night in Ghana. King delivered an earlier iteration of the sermon in Detroit, orchestrated by Rev. C.L. Franklin, Aretha Franklin’s father.
So much hope and progress, and mere weeks later, retaliation. The Birmingham Baptist church bombing was on September 15, 1963. Within five years of the March on Washington, Malcolm X and King were killed.
archival description of the film: “ARC Identifier 49737 / Local Identifier 306.3394. Scenes from Civil Rights March in Washington, D.C., August 1963. People walking up sidewalk; gathering on Mall, standing, singing. Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, crowd gathered on the Mall. People marching with signs, many men wearing UAW hats. People at speakers podium, men with guitars. Crowds outside of the White House, sign: The Catholic University of America. Band, people marching down street. Many signs, including All D.C. wants to vote! Home Rule for DC; Alpha Phi Alpha; and Woodstock Catholic Seminary for Equal Rights. Lincoln Memorial with crowds gathered around reflecting pool. People singing and clapping at speakers platform. Signs, people clapping. Man speaking, woman playing guitar and singing at podium. More speakers and shots of the crowd. A chorus, NAACP men in crowd. Close-ups of people in crowd with bowed heads. Shots taken from above of White House. More speakers, including Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Women at podium singing We Shall Overcome. Crowd swaying, singing, holding hands.”
2013 MFA, Boston John Wilson exhibition of his many MLK studies