(AP) – Some 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed America’s slaves, many Americans embraced the ideal of racial equality but were frustrated with the glacial pace of change. Organizers were making plans to bring people from across the country to the nation’s capital to express their exasperation in a peaceful, nonviolent manner.
On Aug. 28, 1963, men and women, blacks and whites, Latinos and native peoples, Jews and Christians _ more than 250,000 in all _ rallied at the Lincoln Memorial. The gathering stretched down the National Mall, past the reflecting pool toward the Capitol. The music and speeches they heard extolled the urgent need for social justice.
But 50 years later the March on Washington is mostly remembered for the Rev. Martin Luther King’s eloquent speech _ his dream of an America where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
America is closer to realizing King’s dream, but not entirely. The civil rights that blacks fought for and won have been extended to women, Latinos, gays and lesbians and the disabled, among others. An African-American is in the White House. An African-American, Eric Holder, is now enforcing the nation’s laws, including its civil rights laws, as attorney general.
Many of today’s leaders argue that the nation hasn’t reached what King called “the promised land” of equality. This summer, the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin exposed wide racial divides in the nation.
And voting rights, university admission and employment discrimination are all still unsettled legal questions. The Supreme Court, while accepting the ideal of equality, is still grappling with how to achieve it.
Here’s a gallery of images from then and now, from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and from Saturday’s National Action to Realize the Dream.
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