10 Things You May Not Know About the 1963 March on Washington

President Obama will make a landmark speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Wednesday afternoon, marking 50 years (almost to the minute) from the time that Martin Luther King, Jr. encouraged African Americans across the nation to stand together by sharing his dream. As the country waits to hear what the first black president might have to say about the past half century, ViralRead looks back on the 1963 march that changed the course of history forever.

1. The Pentagon rallied 19,000 troops in preparation for the rally, and police shuffled inmates around in local prisons to make room for anticipated arrests.
March on Washington

2. King’s “I Have a Dream Speech”- which is ranked as the greatest political speech of the 20th century- was only 17 minutes long, unlike many of the rambling orations of today’s politicians.

3. The famous speech almost didn’t include its titular phrase because one of King’s advisers told the speaker that all his dream rhetoric was “hackneyed and trite.” Only when a gospel singer in the crowd, Mahalia Jackson, cried out “Tell ‘em about the dream, Martin” in the middle of his speech did he pause and finally decide to add those famous words: “I still have a dream.”

4. On the day of the march, Washington’s liquor stores closed their doors for the first time since Prohibition to prevent potential violence.

5.  The march was actually a star-studded event; its celebrity attendees included Bob Dylan, Marlon Brando, Jackie Robinson, Sidney Poitier, and Harry Belafonte.

Marlon Brando Credit: LA Times

Marlon Brando
Credit: LA Times

6. While Wednesday’s celebrations mark the anniversary of the march, the march itself marked a much more solemn anniversary. It was planned to coincide with the centennial anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. It also marked the eighth anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till.

7. W.E.B Dubois, the founder of the NAACP, died in Africa the night before the march.

8. Nearly 50 members of the American Nazi Party staged a counter-protest at the march, though they were broken up by police.

Demonstrations and Riots 1963

9. King’s speech wasn’t even the lead story in the Washington Post on the day after he delivered it.

10. Rep. John Lewis (D- Ga) is the only person alive today who was listed on the docket as a speaker. His speech was heavily censored by other leaders who felt his tone was too militant, and he removed much of his planned rhetoric. He was only 23 at the time of his speech.

Rep. Lewis Credit: Breitbart

Rep. Lewis
Credit: Breitbart

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