Photo credit: Jo Freeman

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August 28 has become an anniversary to celebrate the accomplishments of African-Americans and to demand more rights. The first one in 1963 was a March for Jobs and Freedom. The latest was a demand for a federal bill to stop state voter suppression laws. The first one brought 250,000 people from all over the country for a rally at the Lincoln Memorial. This year there were rallies and events all over the country, though the one in DC was supposed to be the main event.  The speaker’s stage was set up in the middle of the National Mall next to 7th St. The 1963 rally only had male speakers.  This one had many women, including the wife and daughter of Martin Luther King, III and female members of Congress.

About 2,000 people gathered in McPherson Square early on Saturday morning.

They listened to short speeches.

Sometime after 10:00 a.m., people began gathering on I Street.

The march finally started 40 minutes late.

Demographically, the marchers were about two-thirds white. The age range was wide, but people in their 20s and 30s predominated.

They marched to Connecticut Avenue in the hot sun.

Then they turned toward the White House.

Pennsylvania Plaza was closed, so the marchers passed by the White House on H Street.

I had been trying to get a photo of the front-line sign since the march began, but it was virtually impossible to get a clean shot. A dozen people with bullhorns and cameras filled the space in front of the banner. The marshals held a rope about a dozen feet in front of the sign and wouldn’t let anyone else in. There were just too many heads inside the rope line blocking the sign. After several failed attempts, I ducked under the rope and got one shot before I was grabbed and ejected. I tried a few more times but finally gave up.  

The marchers turned on 15th Street to Constitution Avenue then took 14th Street to the National Mall.

On reaching the Mall, the march ended and the crowd dispersed. They were supposed to walk toward 7th St. and fill the space in front of the stage. Several jumbotrons were set up on the Mall from which the speakers could be seen and heard.

All but the jumbotrons next to the main speaker stage were superfluous since no one wanted to spend hours sitting in the broiling sun. Instead, people sought shade under trees next to the Mall Drives or decided that this was a good time to visit one of the National Museums lining the Mall which had A/C.

The space in front of the speaker stage was covered with white plastic squares to protect the grass. Folding chairs were available for those who had reserved seating. Sitting there was a lot hotter than sitting under the trees off to the side.  

After a while, no one checked credentials to restrict who could get into reserved seating.

Many groups brought their own signs. They often posed for photo ops.

Although the NAACP held a separate rally two miles away at the Lincoln Memorial, President Derrick Johnson spoke at the Mall rally.


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Jo Freeman is a feminist scholar and author.


Copyright © 2021 by Jo Freeman

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