Thousands gather on National Mall to mark the March on Washington’s 60th anniversary

A person holds an image of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
A person holds an image of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the 60th anniversary observance of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday.
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)
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Thousands converged on the National Mall on Saturday for the 60th anniversary observance of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington, with a message that a country that remains riven by racial inequality has yet to fulfill his dream.

“We have made progress, over the last 60 years, since Dr. King led the March on Washington,” said Alphonso David, president and chief executive of the Global Black Economic Forum. “Have we reached the mountaintop? Not by a long shot.”

The event was convened by the King’s Drum Major Institute and the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. A host of Black civil rights leaders and a multiracial, interfaith coalition of allies rallied attendees on the spot where as many as 250,000 gathered on Aug. 28, 1963, for one of the most consequential racial justice and equality demonstrations in U.S. history.

People listen to speakers at the Lincoln Memorial.
People listen to speakers during an event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Inevitably, Saturday’s event was shot through with contrasts to the initial, historic demonstration. Speakers and banners talked about the importance of LGBTQ+ and Asian American rights. Many who addressed the crowd were women; only one was given the microphone in 1963.

Pamela Mays McDonald of Philadelphia attended the march as a child. “I was 8 years old at the original March and only one woman was allowed to speak — she was from Arkansas, where I’m from — now look at how many women are on the podium today,” she said.

The last part of the Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech at the Lincoln Memorial, “I Have A Dream,” is one of American history’s most famous and inspiring orations.

Aug. 26, 2023

For some, the contrasts were bittersweet. “I often look back and look over to the reflection pool and the Washington Monument and I see a quarter of a million people 60 years ago and just a trickling now,” said Marsha Dean Phelts of Amelia Island, Fla. “It was more fired up then. But the things we were asking for and needing, we still need them today.”

As speakers delivered messages, they were overshadowed by the sounds of passenger planes taking off from Ronald Reagan National Airport. Rugby games were underway along the Mall near the Lincoln Memorial while joggers and bikers went about their routines.

Yolanda King speaks as her father, Martin Luther King III, listens at the Lincoln Memorial.
Yolanda King speaks as her father, Martin Luther King III, the son of Martin Luther King Jr., listens at the Lincoln Memorial.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

Yolanda King, the late civil rights icon’s 15-year-old granddaughter, roused marchers with remarks delivered from the same spot her grandfather gave the “I Have a Dream” speech.

“If I could speak to my grandfather today, I would say I’m sorry we still have to be here to rededicate ourselves to finishing your work and ultimately realizing your dream,” she said. “Today, racism is still with us. Poverty is still with us. And now, gun violence has come for places of worship, our schools and our shopping centers.”

Nearly 60 years since the March on Washington, fencing and construction workers greet visitors to the Lincoln Memorial, signaling the monument to the nation’s 16th president is a work in progress.

Aug. 25, 2023

From the podium, Sharpton promised more demonstrations to fight back against injustices, new and old.

“Sixty years ago Martin Luther King talked about a dream. Sixty years later we’re the dreamers. The problem is we’re facing the schemers,” Sharpton said. “The dreamers are fighting for voting rights. The schemers are changing voter regulations in states. The dreamers are standing up for women’s right to choose. The schemers are arguing whether they are going to make you stop at six weeks or 15 weeks.”

After the speeches, the crowd marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.

Several leaders from groups organizing the march met Friday with Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland and Assistant Atty. Gen. Kristen Clarke of the civil rights division to discuss a range of issues, including voting rights, policing and redlining.

T'Kyrra Terrell, 6, holds a small bullhorn and a sign near the Lincoln Memorial.
T’Kyrra Terrell, 6, who her grandmother says has been marching and protesting since she was 2, on her way to the 60th anniversary of the March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial.
(Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

The gathering Saturday was a precursor to Monday’s anniversary. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will observe the event by meeting with organizers of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. All of King’s children have been invited to meet with Biden, White House officials said.

President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with organizers of the 1963 gathering and relatives of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Aug. 25, 2023

King’s words from that day 60 hears ago have resounded through decades of push and pull toward progress in civil and human rights, including dark moments that followed.

Two weeks later in 1963, four Black girls were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., followed by the kidnapping and murder of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Miss., the next year. The tragedies spurred passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The voting rights marches from Montgomery to Selma, Ala., in which marchers were brutally beaten while crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in what became known as Bloody Sunday, propelled Congress to adopt the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which has been weakened in the last decade.

Speakers warned that King’s unfinished dream was in danger of being further whittled away.

“I’m very concerned about the direction our country is going in,” Martin Luther King III said.

“And it is because instead of moving forward, it feels as if we’re moving back. The question is, what are we going to do?”


I was 9 years old when my mom took me to hear Dr. King speak. It changed the way I saw myself and the world.

Jan. 17, 2022

Rosetta Manns-Baugh knew the answer: Keep fighting.

“I think we have accomplished a lot, but I also think we lost,” said Manns-Baugh, who was a bus counter worker in 1963 when she left her seven children and husband at home in Virginia to come to D.C.

Now she’s so disillusioned that she has stopped singing “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement.

But even at age 92, she returned to Washington for the 60th anniversary, bringing three generations of her family, all the way down to her 18-month-old grandchild.

“I think that’s why we all are here, because we do expect the world to get better,” Manns-Baugh said. “We can’t stop working at it, that’s for sure.”

Associated Press journalists Gary Fields, Jacquelyn Martin and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.