Aug. 28, 1963 - More than 200,000 Americans, most of them Negroes but many of them white, demonstrated in Washington, D.C. today for a full and speedy program of civil rights and equal job opportunities. It was the largest assembly for a redress of grievances the capital has ever seen. It dwarfed the suffragette invasion of 1913 and the Bonus March of 1932. D.C. Police Chief Robert V. Murray estimated more than 200,000 were present, and he termed that figure “conservative.” There was no violence. In fact, at times there was a festival feeling as groups of schoolchildren clapped hands and sang the familiar freedom songs. But if the crowd was good-natured, the underlying tone was one of dead seriousness. The emphasis was on “freedom now.” At the same time, the leaders emphasized the struggle was just beginning. On Capitol Hill, opinion was divided about the impact of the demonstration in stimulating Congressional action on civil rights legislation. But at the White House, President Kennedy declared that the cause of 20 million Negroes had been advanced by the march. The march leaders went from the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial to the White House to meet with the President for 75 minutes. Afterward, Mr. Kennedy issued a 400-word statement praising the marchers for the “deep fervor and the quiet dignity” that had characterized the demonstration. The nation, the President said, “can properly be proud of the demonstration that has occurred here today.” The main target of the demonstration was Congress, where committees are now considering the Administration’s civil rights bill.
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