From Publishers Weekly
On August 28, 1963, a quarter of a million people converged on the nation's capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King, whose I Have a Dream speech highlighted the occasion, called it the greatest demonstration for freedom in the nation's history. Yale writing instructor Euchner (The Last Nine Innings) presents a pointillist portrait of the occasion, drawing material from historical records and taking oral histories from more than 100 participants. Although 1963 was the 100th anniversary of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, racial segregation remained deeply entrenched in the nation's South, and one specific, practical goal of the march was to desegregate restaurants and hotels. The Kennedy administration mobilized extensive military and police resources, but march leaders, including principal organizer Bayard Rustin and longtime civil rights activist Asa Philip Randolph, were confident (and accurate) in their belief that a peaceful mass demonstration of this scale was not only possible but could change the course of race relations in America. With deft brushstrokes, Euchner not only captures the myriad dimensions of the march itself but places it in its larger historical context, including the escalating war in Vietnam. (Aug.)
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On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people of all races and backgrounds gathered on the National Mall in support of social equality and jobs and to listen to what would become Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I have a dream” speech. It was the first nationally televised demonstration and a triumph of organization, despite the unprecedented logistical demands and myriad ego-bruising conflicts behind the scenes. Euchner weaves together many of the diverse, complex elements of the event, drawing on interviews from hundreds of participants, to offer a portrait of the famous (A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Andrew Young) and the obscure (three young black men from Gadsden, Alabama). Euchner details King’s preparation for his momentous speech, the behind-the-scenes support offered by Malcolm X, though he declined to participate, and the controversy surrounding John Lewis’ intended fiery remarks. He also details FBI rumormongering, death threats against King and others, and the political maneuvering within the Kennedy administration as Congress pondered the fair employment legislation that was partially the impetus for the march. A sweeping, comprehensive look at a pivotal march in American history. --Vanessa Bush
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