March on Washington

History By Mail - March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Crowd of roughly 250,000 people. View of the reflecting pool and the Washington Monument.

View from the Lincoln Memorial to at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 23, 1963 in Washington, D.C. The view overlooks the crowd of roughly 250,000 people, the reflecting pool, and the Washington Monument. 

On May 24, 1963, African American cultural leaders including novelist, playwright, and Civil Rights activist James Baldwin were invited to discuss race relations with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. The meeting soon became antagonistic, as the African American participants felt Kennedy did not adequately understand the race problem in America. Civil Rights leaders believed the Kennedy administration had not lived up to JFK’s 1960 campaign promises, and MLK described the Kennedy administration’s race policy as “tokenism.” MLK felt Civil Rights had lost its place as the number one domestic issue through a series of minor actions by the Kennedy Administration to improve voting rights, and work against discrimination in housing and in the workplace. The Baldwin-Kennedy meeting provoked the administration to take action.