The March on Washington
Black Rights vs. White Fragility (1963-2020)

Arash Norouzi
The Mossadegh Project
| June 5, 2020                                                          


 (1963)

There may be no better example of a peaceful mass demonstration than the historic 1963 March on Washington. Attended by some 250,000 people, it’s best known as the site of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I Have A Dream” speech, still regarded as an oratorial masterpiece.

At the time, however, many white people feared mob violence, disruption of business, and overall “coercion” and “intimidation” by the minority. Nationally syndicated conservative columnist David Lawrence was particularly incensed, predicting that the march “will go down in history as marking a day of public disgrace — a step backward in the evolution of the American system of government.” He maintained this rigid stance even years afterward.

Famed columnist Walter Lippman offered a counter view on the upcoming march, writing, “the overwhelming mass of the American Negroes are asking only for their lawful rights, which are the normal prerogatives of non-colored American citizens.” He then cautioned, “We must never forget, however, that if this thoroughly non-revolutionary movement is repressed too long, if the redress of grievances is denied too long, it could and probably would become clandestine, violent and ugly.”

In 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement was formed in response to the continued injustices at the hands of police and citizen vigilantes. After the sickening murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in May 2020, U.S. cities exploded in mass protest, as have many around the world in solidarity. Among the demonstrations have been widespread looting and property destruction — some of the “ugly” consequences Lippman warned of. Predicatably, right-wing reaction from outlets like FOX News have fixated on the “law and order” angle, sounding a lot like the discredited Lawrence.

One can’t help but look back at that time, when nervous bigots were triggered by the mere idea of the 1963 march, and more recently, the peaceful ‘taking a knee’ protest popularized by the NFL’s Colin Kaepernick, which so outraged white Republicans and the current occupant of the White House.

In both instances, responsible, conscientious citizens were reprimanded, even hounded for their supposed treachery, when actually, there was never any “correct” way for them to protest unscathed. When John F. Kennedy said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable”, wasn’t he just acknowledging a natural law?

Which brings us to this obscure 1963 lead editorial in a newspaper serving the small town of Sebree, Kentucky. Right out of the gate, they revealed their contempt for the African-American plight. In each paragraph were the familiar dual rationalizations of white entitlement and victimization that echo to this day, the inexplicable small-mindedness, the random scare words like “socialism” and “integration”.

The editorial was backwards in more ways than one. Though written in anticipation of the August 28th march and its potential negative effects, it was, for some reason, published two days after the march occurred, even after their fears were proven unfounded.

Roughly six decades onward, the naked racism of that era, astoundingly, remains very much alive.


United States media archive





August 30, 1963 — The Sebree Banner

The March On Washington

August 28 will leave a mark on the United States as Negroes throughout the land converge on our nation’s capitol to protest their so-called violation of rights.

What will come out of such a demonstration (good or bad) is anybody’s guess. Negroes throughout the land have been demonstrating and complaining that through the years they have settled for tokenism as far as equality is concerned.

All these demonstrations may have some bearing on our law-makers, we cannot rightly say—but with violence, demonstrations, sit-ins, being forced upon the public throughout the land the Negroes cause is beginning to lose its white sympathizers.

In Washington, our great capitol city, one of the first to be de-segregated, has become, not the model that was thought, but a city of violence and ruthlessness.

Washington now is about 85 per cent Negro, the whites are leaving the schools, and the ones remaining are those who cannot afford to leave. So once again the Negro will cry out only token intergration, [sic—integration] as the schools will become totally segregated in a few years.

In other areas of the country, such as all-white neighborhoods in various cities, the Negro has moved in and the white has moved cut, making the area not intergrated, [sic—integrated] as one would think, but again totally segregated.

Our country has prospered more since our founding fathers set down the laws we now abide by, than any other nation in the world. Surely, the great men who formed our constitution were not as wrong as some of our lawmakers of today would have us believe.

So, when a minority group can force its will upon the people of this land, without first giving consideration to the benefit of all, we have ceased to be the great nation that we claim to be, and blood will run in the streets before the majority will submit to such tactics.

The white race descriminates [sic—discriminates] among itself more than any other race, and all the laws our leaders may force upon us will not change the heritage of the people in the south.

When a person works a lifetime to provide for himself and family, devotes a life-time of effort and pain to his business, there is no man big enough or good enough to tell him that he has to have a certain clientel [sic—clientele] or close his doors. This is not the way our country was founded, this is not freedom, this is not what our constitution provides.

This is, however a dictitorial [sic—dictatorial] form of government, a socialist state, and the majority will not stand still and be deprived by the minority.

When the white race bows to the tactics advocated by Adam Clayton Powell, the man who advocates black supremacy, then the time has come for drastic measures to be taken.

Every person, however they may feel about intergration, segregation, and their view on civil rights should write their congressmen, and express their sentiments. Then, if our elected representatives do not, or will not abide by the majority of the people, they should be removed.

The march on Washington has been highly publicized, and Negro leaders claim there will be no violence. But on the other hand they make statements such as A. Phillip Randolph, director of the “March”, saying:

“Negroes will no longer submit to humiliation, even if it costs them their lives.”

A person cannot speak out of both sides of their mouth at the same time, and whatever comes out of the March on Washington, the heritage of the white race, and the principals [sic—principles] they live by will not be changed.

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Related links:

Americans Inconsistent on Negroes | The Salt Lake Tribune (Letter), May 20, 1951

Sociologist Horace R. Cayton, Jr.: Black People Can Learn From Iran (1951)

Black Journalist Percival Leroy Prattis on Iran, Racism (1951)



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