tv 2020 ABC August 28, 2020 9:01pm-11:01pm PDT
♪ black lives, black lives matt matter ♪ >> today's march on washington -- >> hope is our revolution, and justice is our righteous inheritance. >> we are the dream, but we must turn the dream into demands, demands for real justice. >> speaking out online. >> these protests and this march are what democracy looks like. >> and on the streets. in the wake of george floyd, breonna taylor, jacob blake and so many others -- >> he was not treated like a human that day. >> a new march is taking place. a new call for accountability and change. >> i have been watching police murder people that look like me for years. >> black lives matter!
>> i don't want your pity. i want change. >> from political leaders -- activists and protesters. >> they brutalized us, shot us with rubber bullets, beat us with batons. >> still trying to make the dream of reverend dr. martin luther king jr. come true. >> i said, "mr. president, the people are restless." >> see why this documentary is more important than ever. 57 years after the first march in 1963. >> i said, this is it. and i went for it. >> the march on washington. hello. i'm deborah roberts. those images of today arc echo of something 57 years ago when 250,000 people descended on the nation's capital, protesting for jobs and freedom. on today's anniversary of
dr. martin luther king jr.'s "i have a dream" speech, we at "20/20" are proud to present the documentary, "the march." originally made in 2013 to commemorate the march's 50th anniversary, some of those voices, sadly, are now gone, but their legacy livines on. >> i have had to tell my children about the segregation and what it means.
my 7-year-old daughter, she wanted to go to fun town, and we found it necessary to explain to her that she couldn't go to fun town because she was colored. to attempt to explain a system like the unjust and evil system of segregation to a 6-year-old child is a very difficult thing. >> in 1963, the movement for civil rights came to the most segregated city in the american south -- birmingham, alabama. >> birmingham is a symbol of hard core resistance to integration. it is most thoroughly segregated city in the united states. it has had more unsolved
burnings of negro homes and churches than any city in the united states. >> it's not any other southern city, okay? birmingham is bombingham. they have quarries and conducting the quarry business you use dynamite, so there are a lot of local people who are expert in the use of dynamite. >> a teenage boy riding a bicycle had been knocked off the bike and castrated. a young couple had gone to the city hall to get a wedding license, came around the corner, and brushed shoulders away birmingham policeman and he pulled out his pistol and pistol whipped the boy to the ground. i mean, it was a horrible heinous place. >> the campaign was to be led by the organization's
then-34-year-old leader, the reverend dr. martin luther king jr. >> it is immoral to urge people to accept injustices and oppression of second class citizenship in an attempt to wait until the so-called opportune time. the time is always right to do right. >> dr. king was the voice of civil rights from the busboy cot on, but by the end of 1962, he recognized that the civil rights movement was losing what he called its window in history. the south was still segregated, and he said, we need to take more of a risk. we need to go for broke. i need to go for broke. >> i think he felt that we have to be willing to give our lives to put an end to segregation. if we do, then segregation will
end even if we die. that was the reason he chose birmingham. >> before the victory's won, some may even have to face physical death. we must come to see that there are some things so eternally true that they are worth dying for, and if a man has not discovered something that he will die for, he isn't fit to live. >> in january of 1963, one man was determined to stop king's desegregation message from spreading any further, birmingh birmingham's police chief, eugene "bull." >> it's the cake over of our country by the indigent, the la lazy, the beat nicks and some misguided religious and a
bleeding hearts. >> do you think you can keep birmingham in segregation? >> i may not be able to do it, but i'll die trying. ♪ can see us through ♪ the lord will see us through >> overcoming bull conner's segregationist zeel, not to mention his jails would take something special, and in 1963, king would find out just how special that effort needed to be. >> he spent all of january, february, and march 1963 training people to accept nonviolence, to go down into marches and be willing to go into bull conner's jails. but conner's jails were so fearsome that no matter how much they exhorted people, no matter how many freedom songs they sang, how much fervor there was in the meetings, people wouldn't risk showing up to go into those
jails. >> with the campaign paralyzed by fear and defeat looming, king put his reputation on the line. defying a city ban on demonstrations, he led one from the front. as king was led off to jail, a new group emerged from the shadows. >> he's in jail. he doesn't know if the protests are going to continue or whether bull conner is going to win. then the young people enter the birmingham struggle. ♪ ain't gonna let nobody turn me around ♪ ♪ turn me around, turn me around ♪ >> i don't mind coming to jail. i don't mind suffering at all, and i will suffer for my
freedom. i want equal rights. i want equal rights. ♪ talking, marching up the freedom line ♪ >> these young teenagers essentially saved the movement. ♪ >> violence against the civil rights demonstrators was going on spasmodically. but bull conner and his dogs was on national television. everybody in america saw that. and most everybody that saw it was shocked, was really shocked. >> the pictures were so shocking that it raised the moral issue
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as the birmingham campaign escalated, king moved around the country. what he saw surprise him and altered his thinking of the movement. >> dr. king came out of birmingham traveling around instead of going into towns and giving a talk in the black church, there are 15,000 people at the airport, and they're mixed, black and white. he says, breakthrough. we have to take advantage of this. we have to have a national protest, call philip randolph and say his idea about having a march on washington, we need to do it now. >> philip randolph was the founder of brotherhood of sleeping carporters in the
1920s. the sleeping carporters were black workers in the railroad industry. there was a time that blacks did all kind of work in the railroad industry, but as the new technology game, they were dismissed, and whites took the job. the one thing they could get organized and would remain african-american were the sleeping carport porters. >> universally recognized as the dean of the civil rights movement, randolph had earned that title in a 30-year fight for racial equality. >> a. philip randolph was in fact the first black leader to advocate mass action. he understood that the only way to make progress in this country was not only through mass action, but that you had to
center your activity on washington, d.c. -- on the congress and on the president. ♪ >> a. philip randolph told me the story when he was a young man leading. president roosevelt invited him to dinner. during the dinner a. philip randolph organized all the issues and things he thought the president should act on and respond to. >> by the time it ended roosevelt says to randolph, i'll ask you to please go out in your world and make me do what you've asked me to do. >> a. philip randolph went back to the people they knew and said, we're going to march on washington. and the president signed the fair practices bill within days.
>> negros -- things that whites should have possessed. all of their rights. they want no reservations and no force urn the sun can block and stop the civil rights revolution which is now under way. >> randolph would organize two further marches on washington in the '50s. on both he would be helped by another figure, byard russton. >> everybody now byard was an organizational genius. he had been a member of the young communist league he had been an objector in world war ii.
he served 18 months in a federal penitentiary for that. and of course he was gay, and he never hid that fact. >> ruston was also an old ally of martin luther king. it was a relationship formed during the momentous event that launched king on the national scene, the montgomery b bus boycott of 1956. >> mr. randolph spoke to dr. king in the early days of the protests and suggested to him that byard would be a real help. from that period through 1960s, byard was in virtual daily contact with dr. king. >> at the height of the desegregation battle with bull conner's forces, ruston
travelled to birmingham. and when bull conner turned the cities fire hoses on its black children, ruston was on hand giviing advice. one important piece of advice he would give came in the form of an important message from a. philip randolph. >> randolph sent ruston down and said, look, rather than keep this a southern black movement, we need the organize a march on washington that would make it a national movement. >> randolph had been stating in public that there may be a need for another march on washington in the early 1960s. the kennedy administration, which had come in with so much hope for civil rights had faltered and was almost terminally hesitant to do things.
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kennedy became the new president. from the beginning kennedy's message of hope and freedom struck a chord with many across the world. at the height of his travels, the new president's commitment to democratic values would also embolden many closer to home. >> i have already talked with the president about issuing a sort of second emancipation proclamation. the shape of the world today does not afford us the luxury such an anemic democracy. >> two years into his presidency, however, very little happened on racial equality at home, and many, including king, began to lose patience. >> president kennedy has done some significant things, and at the same time, i must say that president kennedy hasn't done enough, and we must remind him that we elected him.
♪ >> i had been involved with the relationship between kennedy and martin luther king. when i saw king and kennedy together, the president let king know that it made no sense to go forward in the first session of congress with the civil rights bill. when we left, martin said, i hoped we had last had a president who had the intelligence to understand the problem, who had the political skills to solve it, and who had the passion to see it through. he said, i'm certainly convinced of the first two. and we'll just have to see what happens about seeing it through. ♪
>> june 1963, events began to force the president's hand in ways both tragic and entirely anticipated. >> june 12th, medger evers is assassinated. also in june, vivian malone and james hood are students who are admitted to the university of alabama, but the university of alabama refused to admit them. the person refusing to admit them was none other than the state governor. >> as governor, i am the highest constitutional officer of the state of alabama, and i will be present to bar the entrance of any negro who attempts to enroll at the university of the alabama. >> when you have a governor standing in the way of executing a federal court order, any president is going to have to take a stand on that.
that pushes kennedy to recognize that he can't avoid this issue anymore. >> as the university crisis unfolded, the kennedy administration also found itself confronted by an equally set ur set of problems elsewhere. >> all these demonstrations are breaking out in hundreds of cities. 200 people going to jail here. 500 people going to jail there. his advisers came to him and said, this is going to not die down. the only alternative is to bite the bullet and propose a bill to end segregation. >> we are confronted primarily with a moral issue. it is as old as the scriptures and as clear as the american constitution. we preach freedom around the world, and we mean it. and we cherish our freedom here at home. but are we to say to the world,
and much more importantly, to each other, that this is the land of the free except for the negros? >> it is a remarkable speech in history in the sense that it was one more day's demonstrations made him call his advisers in and say, that's it. i want to propose this bill. his advisers said, when? and he said, tonight. and they said, what? >> next week i shall ask the congress of the united states to act. make a commitment that is not fully made that racism has no place in life or law. >> by the time kennedy made that speech, king had already begun his post birmingham tour across the country. that tour would convince him that randolph's march on washington idea was the best way
forward. and he began to say so. >> we are calling for nonviolent peaceful march on washington. we want to go not by the hundreds, not by the thousands, but by the hundreds of thousands. we are determined to be free in '63. >> in a way you've got two streams coming together, the political stream that kennedy had making that speech and the kings protest stream planning to have a march. now they've got a bill that the president has introduced to have a march for. randolph wanted to march to be about jobs. king wanted it to be about freedom.
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on july 2, 1963, the first meeting of the march on washington committee would take place in new york. for four months randolph had been planning for just such a meeting. >> in january of hill drafted something to randolph saying now is the time for march on jobs and economic freemt. . >> we met several times in ruston's apartment and came up with a plan. this plan we presented to philip randolph well before the critical important meeting of the big six civil rights leaders that actually decided and agreed that the march ought to take place. >> a. philip randolph, negro
american labor council. witney young, the national urban league. roy wilkins, the naacp. john lewis, student nonviolent coordinating committee. james farmer congress of racial equality, and martin luther king jr., southern christian leadership conference. the leaders of the six biggest civil rights organizations. on july 2, 1963, randolph will chair their first meeting. >> the march will be held on august the 28th, and it will have a twofold purpose. number one, to arouse the conscious of the nation on the economic plight of the negro 100 years after the emancipation proclamation and to demand strong forthright civil rights
legislation. the president's proposed civil rights bill. >> a. philip randolph calls people together to new york to meet about how are we going to stage this march? and by june, their meeting with president kennedy. >> we as a group were invited by ruston along with philip randolph to attend a meeting with president kennedy in late june 1963. it was in that meeting that a. philip randolph spoke up. said, mr. president, we're going to march on washington. the people are restless. the black masses are restless. >> the kennedy administration was a reluctant pardoner when it
came to the march. the president feared that it might turn violent, and if it did, it would kill any chance for civil rights legislation getting through the congress. he tried his best to talk the leaders out of the march. and when he found that they were not talkable outable, he joined the march. >> despite agreeing to support the march, the president had something else on his mind that day. >> president kennedy took dr. king out into the rose garden and said that he was receiving a lot of pressure from the fbi and others that this movement was heavily infiltrated by communists. >> he said, the fbi has determined that there are two
top communists in the communist party in the united states among your top advisers. they are stanley david levison and jack hunter and you have to get rid of them immediately. >> i was operating two jobs -- direct mail fundraising and then i was director of voter registration. so when president kennedy told me you got to fire jack, i was like, dr. king told kennedy, i don't see the time where you got to be no communist, because he got two jobs with me and both of them are full-time jobs. >> of the two men he was told to let go as a precondition for kennedy's support of the march, stanley levison was one that king had become especially reliant on. >> levison and king had been close since the late 1950s.
levison did all sorts of advising, political counselling, editorial advising for king. only in early 1962 did the fbi learn that levison had become a close friend of kings. >> when the march on washington is announced, hoover goes to kennedy and tells him about what he knows about stanley levison and his background. and he wants to institute wiretaps in order to see what kind of relationship exists between levison and king. >> they began wiretapping levison with the support of the kennedy brothers. but as of the summer of 1963, they had produced not one
scintilla of evidence indicating that levison had any sympathy for communism. >> the wiretap on stanley levison became the predicate for all of the wiretaps, including the wiretaps on martin luther king, including the wiretap on byard ruston, including the wire top on martin luther king's lawyers. >> by late july, innuendo and rumor from these wiretaps would be news on capitol hill. as the iconic figurehead of the impending march, king was faced with a stark choice. lose presidential support or turn your back on two friends. >> jack o'dell was finally let go. but clearly in order to demonstrate to the kennedys that we had severs our ties with, quote, a known communist.
>> despite the removal of o'dell, the communist scare could dog plans for the march throughout july of 1963. fear of other possible controversies would also turn the selecting of a march organizer into a major argument. >> a. philip randolph is determined to have his protege, ruston, be the organizer of the march. but a lot of the other leaders felt that ruston's very visible presence would be a vulnerability for the movement. another aspect of russton's story is that he has three strikes against him -- he's gay, he's red, and you know, he's black. >> so we had a caucus, and we
made a decision that we would recommend that a. philip randolph be the convener. so mr. randolph, in his own way, selected byard ruston as his deputy. >> roy wilkins said to randolph, you know his background. all the segregationists are going to use this to attack the march. and randolph said, i will be responsible for him. ep number s. can it help me fall asleep faster? yes, by gently warming your feet. but can it help keep me asleep? absolutely, it intelligently senses your movements and automatically adjusts to keep you both effortlessly comfortable will it help me keep up with mom? you got this. so you can really promise better sleep? not promise... prove. and now, all beds are on sale. save 50% on the sleep number 360 limited edition smart bed. plus 0% interest for 60 months on all smart beds. ends monday.
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sand ♪ ♪ yes, and how many times must the cannon balls fly ♪ ♪ before >> byard rustin with the help of a. philip randolph and a young woman by the name of rachelle horowitz put together the march. ♪ the answer is blowing in the wind ♪ >> byard set the tone. work began at about 9:00 in the morning. ended at 11:00 at night. sundays were for staff meetings. nobody quit before byard quit. this was 50 years ago, so there was no email. there was no fax machine. byard asked that each civil
rights organization loan two people to work on the staff. for a good six weeks, we worked six days a week and 18-hour days. i don't ever remember coming in before 10:00, 11:00 at night, you know? >> another figure who would play a crucial role is norman hill, one of the original architects of the march. >> norman played an incredibly important role when the march itself began. he was the field organizer. if one had to get roy wilkins, jim farmer, whitney young, and snick and on-lewjohn lewis to s we're going to work and play well together, it was magnified
on the local level. >> what i actually did was travel from city to city by bus, train, or plane. the purpose of my traveling was to organize and develop local coalitions. they would work to generate participation in the march from their city. >> we're taking 25 cent donations for these buttons. >> they would raise funds to enable those lacking the means to go to washington, d.c. >> freedom now movement, hear me. we are requesting all citizens to move into washington. to go by plane, bus, car, any way that you can get there. >> my job was to get as many people from the south to go up to washington as possible.
i went out talking to groups of people. i talked to them about the horrible violence that accommodated the racism i grew up with and usually came back with enough to charter another bus. >> another figure who would prove invaluable throughout july and august is star and entertainer harry belafonte. >> i went to california, spent endless days talking to artists, some of the great profiles of the day. i would then tell john kennedy and others, you'll have such on array of superstars. there will be so much high profile presence. >> we will march in washington on august 28, 1963, along with hundreds of thousands of our fellow americans. >> harry was the pied piper and
the conscious of the civil rights movement in the arts community. >> we will march because we recognize the events of the summer of 1963 as among the most significant we have lived through. >> by simply getting them on the phone and talking to them, he was able to persuade is heston who became the so-called chairman. >> marlon brando, shelly winters, james garner, steve mcqueen, sammy davis, tony bennet. >> by early august, news of the impending march was everywhere, but the responses were not always what the organizers anticipated. >> when white americans heard the idea of large numbers of black people coming together in
washington, they immediately thought of riot. black people get together, riot. they immediately thought this was a terrible thing to do. they're going to do terrible things. they're going to riot in the streets. there will be fights, there will be everything. >> as the date of the march loomed, a president about to propose a civil rights bill found himself increasingly drawn into a spiraling fear of impending violence. >> we want citizens to come to washington if they feel that they're not having their rights expressed, but of course arrangements have been made to make this responsible and peaceful. this is not a march on the capitol. >> caught in a flurry of international dignitary visits the president sounded upbeat whenever pressed about the march. behind the scenes, though, things were rather different. >> the original objective of the march was that it was supposed to be outside congress. and the president, particularly
his attorney general, they were absolutely appalled. they were frightened. >> there was very heavy debate on whether he should endorse, because the thought was, it could become violent. he would have sponsored a gathering of violence and it would be bad. so, he assigned an order, which allowed for immediate implementation of federal troops to be ready in case there was violence. >> part of also what happened with the meetings with the kennedy administration was the decision to moderate the idea. if you're going to have a march on washington, have it well under control of established organizations, and most of all, to have it a one-day march and that everybody involve second down out of toinvolved is out o sunday.
>> those of us that were younger yelled at byard, how could you do this? give it up? byard said, now, now, the more people we have, the better this march will be. so we went to plan "b." ♪ ♪ hold on, hold on >> august 27, 1963, the night before the march. ♪ >> the anticipation in the city was measurable. you could feel it. people did not have any sense of what might happen. ♪ hold on, hold on ♪ hold on
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♪ > the march on washington today. >> we are the dream, but we must turn that dream into demands. demands for real justice. >> and how it all began 57 years ago. >> can you tell us what your thoughts are this morning? >> well, i am just tremendously moved. >> from the documentary, "the march." >> i said, "mr. president, we are going to march on washington. the people are restless." >> when white america heard, they thought, "there'll be riots in the streets." >> everywhere you looked, you saw black and white people.
>> the long-awaited march on jobs and freedom. >> brother john lewis. >> i said, this is it. and i went for it. >> these people don't know it, but they're about to go to church. >> the march on washington. >> hello. i'm deborah roberts. welcome back as we continue our special presentation of the "the march." the a do you meancumentary narra denzel washington. will the crowds show up and the voices of protest be heard? >> i had finished my first year, and during that time when i began to hear there was going to be this massive march on washington, i didn't know how i was going to get there, but i definitely wanted to be there. i managed to find a ride with a naacp group that was leaving
from indianapolis on the night before the march. the bus went overnight, so i didn't get a lot of sleep. >> daybreak, august 28, 1963. the morning of the march. >> we went on over to the march site. there weren't many people there when we got there. i remember just saying, i hope they come, i hope they come. we got up at the crack of dawn, and i made the banners for the busses. you're a teenager, and you know that this is something you need to do, just because all of these people around you are inspired and inspiring you to do all of
this. ♪ we shall overcome ♪ we shall overcome >> once we got out of jersey, then you're hitting philadelphia and delaware. you're into dangerous territory. >> the plane will leave at midnight, and we will arrive in washington at 9:00 a.m. in the morning. when we arrive at 9:00 a.m. there will be a press conference with our group as well as the people coming in from new york. >> we chartered planes that came from california, trains that came from new york, and everywhere, ladened with the
greatest artists. they closed the theaters on broadway. some of the studios suspended shooing for the day so. these stars -- i mean, the most visible to show up. >> it wasn't until i guess about 7:30 or 8:00 that we saw people coming up the hill that we breathed a sigh of relief. "they're here". people kept coming and coming and coming. and we knew from the moment -- the moment the crowds began to arrive that we had a success. >> as you came toward the washington mall, you began to notice the busses with signs on it, and you got a sense
that something really special was happening. >> i remember watching the first arrivals. it was my first major assignment. it was all fairly basic equipment, and not knowing whether it would work, i began to feel nauseated. and i started sipping coca-cola and chewing tums and nothing helped. i went down off the steps into the boxwood, and i threw up. ♪ freedom, freedom, freedom >> the long-awaited march for jobs and freedom on washington, d.c. has started and it started early without its scheduled leaders. about ten minutes ago, the march began. ♪ we are not afraid to >> i tell you, when i began to really feel good was when joan baez sang "we shall overcome." you just felt, this is it.
this is okay. you could feel everybody going, yes. ♪ we shall overcome >> it was in some ways my best contribution to the civil rights movement was making what i salt and pepper audiences. people come to me years and years later saying they were standing next to somebody from the school and holding hands, singing "we shall overcome." those stories are so amazing to me. ♪ i had a hammer in the morning ♪ >> by 9:30, 40,000 people were at the meeting place of the march. ♪ a hammer in the morning >> cars arrived from alabama, mississippi, and every other southern state. ♪ all over this land >> by 10:00.
972 buss and special trains carrying 52,000 people left new york. by 10:30, 100 busses an hour would be arriving in washington. ♪ well, i got a hammer and i got a bell ♪ ♪ i got a song to sing >> and ask us to assemble and begin the march for freedom now. >> despite the growing numbers, not everything was going according to plan with the march. as thousands moved toward the second site, a simmering dispute over one of the speeches threatened to derail all of the hard work. >> john lewis showed copies of the speech to me and to bayard, and we loved it. we thought it was the greatest
thing in the world. ♪ freedom, freedom, freedom >> there's a young man who worked on our staff cortland cox, and there was a press table. i remember courtland rushing past me saying, i'm going to put john's speech on the press table. and i said, don't do it. the first call that mr. randolph got was from archbishop o'boyle. he said he would not do the invocation if john did his speech. >> that hit us like a ton of bricks. for us it was a collective stateme statement. not john's speech alone. i was very upset about it. we all were. that your great-grandmother? who stood up. who stood strong. who demanded to be seen.
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♪ with the march in progress, threats of a boycott also arrive from another unexpected corner. aspects of john lewis' speech so alarmed some members of the march committee they too were threatening to walk. >> in the text i suggested that if we did not see meaningful progress the day may come when he may be forced to march through the south the way
sherman did, nonviolently. and the other leaders said, no, no, no, you can't use that, john. that is too inflammatory. >> randolph said, you know, even though i sympathize away lwith of things you're saying i need you to change it. i have been trying to achieve this march since before you were born, and i don't want to see it ruined right on the eve of this march. >> we got to the lincoln memorial, and the program had started, and jim foreman and snick and john were there and they were working out what could be taken out without compromising it. and virtually until the last minute they were both working on it. ♪ >> assured that the speech would
be changed, archbishop o'boyle agreed to the invocation. >> our father who art in heaven, we who are assembled here in the spirit of peace and good faith dedicate ourselves and our hopes to you. we ask the fullness of your blessing upon those who have gathered with us today. [ cheers and applause ] >> by lunchtime, over 150,000 people had assembled. and cars, coaches, and trains still kept coming. in the sweltering august heat, performers and speakers took to the stage. by early afternoon, over 200,000 had filled the mall. one of the largest demonstrations in american history. ♪ still in the wind before the hurricane begins, the hour that
the ship comes in ♪ >> 100 years the negro people searched for first class citizenship. i believe they cannot and should not wait until some distant tomorrow. they should demand freedom now. here and now! ♪ >> i have some 1,500 names here. [ cheers and applause ] >> you could see burt lancaster one minute and paul ryan the next and paul newman and lena horn sbe sidney poitier. everywhere you looked there were
these nuggets of celebrity. >> everywhere you looked, you saw black and white people. it was a great feeling to be privy to that, to see it, and to see the mix of colors who were there. putting themselves on the block. to say, i am who i am. that's why they came. that's why i went. ♪ i >> by late afternoon, john lewis had finished making changes to his speech, and he was ready to be introduced by a. philip randolph. >> i have the pleasure to introduce to this great
audience, brother john lewis. >> went straight to the podium, and i looked straight ahead. i said, this is it. and i went for it. >> our brothers are not here. they're receiving starvation badges or no badges at all. >> the fact that john lewis gave the second most talked about speech at that march, that was unique for many reasons. among them, little cultural things. he didn't use to phrase negro. he said black people. ♪ yeah >> we must get in this revolution and complete the revolution. in southwest georgia, in the blight of the alabama, in harlem, chicago, detroit, philadelphia, and all over this nation, the black masses are on the march for freedom.
♪ lord, if you leave ♪ lord, if you leave your child ♪ ♪ i cannot make it, no [ cheers and applause ] >> finally, the man most people had come to hear. >> dr. martin luther king. >> it was the first time most americans heard a complete king speech. it was televised from start to finish. here you heard a whole speech in which he was speaking not just for the aims of black people but for the aims of american democracy. >> five score years ago, a great american in whose symbolic
shadow we stand today signed the emancipation proclamation. 100 years later, the negro still is not free. america has given the negro people a bad check. a check which has come back marked insufficient funds. >> i was 9 years old, and from what i had gathered from the zeitgeist, from family members, my community, i knew that this moment was going to be a seminal moment for us. multiple symptoms holding you back. even the furballs don't make you happy. okay puppies, time for a do-over. then your doctor tells you about trintellix, a prescription medicine for adults with depression.
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police brutality. we can never be satisfied. >> we all saw that there was no fear. we saw his value system, his point of view about us all as human creatures. once we saw that in him, our instincts moved us closer. >> no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. >> as he got to the end of the speech, she kept say, tell them about the dream, martin. >> i'm standing about 50 feet behind dr. king, and i watch his demeanor change. and i turn to the person next to me, and i said, these people
don't know it, but they're about are the ready to go to church. >> so even though we face difficulties of today and tomorrow, i still have a dream. it is a dream deeply rooted in the american dream. i have a dream. >> all of the speeches that he ever made came together in that one moment. and the best of every speech was to be now revealed in the context of this great historical moment. >> i have a dream. my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. i have a dream. let freedom ring.
from every mountainside, let freedom ring. and if america is to be a great nation, this must become true. let freedom ring from stone mountain of georgia. let freedom ring from lookout mountain of tennessee. let freedom ring from every hill and molehill in mississippi, from every mission site. let freedom ring, and when it happens, when we let it ring from every village and ever hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of god's children -- black men and white men, jews and protestants and catholics will be able to join hands in sing in the words of the old negro spirit. free at last, free at last,
thank god al mighty, we are free at last. >> being there is one of the highlights of my life. i felt clear about being an american and being a black american. what doctor king was saying was really so simple. >> everything that has happened to me -- my ability to be liberated, completely free, determining my own destiny, owning myself -- happened because of that moment. >> the kennedys were worried the very moment the march appeared
as a realistic possibility. but after the big event, the leaders of the march go to the white house. this is a coming together of the black civil rights movement and the kennedy administration. >> president kennedy stood in the door to the oval office and he greeted each one of us. he shook our hands one by one. he said, you did a good job. you did a good job. ♪ i wish i knew how it would feel to be free ♪ >> ten hours after it began, the event that would change american politics forever was over. as the crowds made their way back, the reverberations of that day will be felt all over the world. ♪ and i should say, say them loud, say them clear ♪
♪ for the whole round world to hear ♪ >> one of the things that king's dream makes clear is once we start dreaming of a better world and start making that better world, things that we thought were impossible become possible. and that was an inspiration. ♪ i wish you could know what it means to be me ♪ ♪ then you'd see and agree that every man should be free ♪ ♪ i wish i could give all i'm longing to give ♪ ♪ i wish i could live like i'm longing to live ♪ ♪ i wish i could do all the things that i can do ♪ >> this man who was never
elected to any public office, this man standing 430 feet tall between president jefferson and president lincoln. sometimes when i'm flying out of washington, i look down and see the monument of martin luther king jr. it says something about the man and says something about this country, the distance we've come and the progress we've made. ♪ when sing because i know how it feels ♪ ♪ i know how it feels to be free ♪ ♪ yeah, i know how it feels ♪ yes i know, i know >> we hope you learned something new from "the march" documentary
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[ barking ] that historic march of 1963 was an incredible turning point, so wahat happened in the days after? the years and even decades after? our new history lesson picks up now, taking us from black panthers to black lives matter. >> i pledge to carry the message of the march to my friends and neighbors. >> it was just the most overwhelmingly incredible day for me.
>> reporter: fatima cortez todd was a wide-eyed 18-year-old at the time who traveled by bus from new jersey. >> it was very positive, moving forward kind of stuff. it was a very kumbaya environment, you know. and it was a very inspiring time. >> the actual success of the march of washington was it signaled -- we come here now to dramatize this shameful condition, and we go back, we go back to the south. >> reporter: an energized generation kept right on marching after d.c. a year and a half later, enduring brutal violence on the historic selma to montgomery marches. those efforts led to another huge breakthrough, passage of the voting rights act. >> it's all of us who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.
and we shall overcome. >> by the end of march 1965, lyndon johnson was introducing voting rights and ending his speech with, "and we shall overcome." you know? so, i mean, i have seen the world turn, and i've seen change that i never thought was >> reporter: but as the decade went on, patience began to wear thin, and the peaceful optimism from that august day in d.c. competed with the emergence of more militant voices like the black panther party. >> we believe the people need to be educated if we're going to defend ourselves against the fascism in america and around the world today. >> we move from civil rights to calls for black power. if you look at what was actually happening in the streets of
urban america, we were not realizing the promise of inclusion. >> reporter: then, in april 1968, the man whose words rang out so loud and clear at the march on washington, silenced by an assassins bullet in memphis. >> you know, after dad's death there were over 100 cities that went up in flames. that's certainly not what he would have wanted. what my father used to say was, riots are the language of the unheard. where they have no option, they resort to violence. >> reporter: there was also a fierce backlash when it came to actually implementing those landmark civil rights laws. in the '70s, communities like south boston were torn apart by court-mandated school busing intended to force desegregation of schools. >> even after we won laws, those laws had to be still
actualized, right? just because you get a federal law doesn't mean a state is going to want to follow it. >> i baa rack hussein obama will defend the constitution of the united states. >> so help you god? >> so help me god. >> reporter: 45 years after the march on washington, thousands again flocked to the nation's capitol to witness another transformative event, the inauguration of the nation's first black president. >> there was hope that the election of barack obama to the highest office in the land would finally sort of tear down the barriers of racism, but that's just not how it works. >> obama may have been president. with all the stuff that was going on was wrong. but he was not god and he could not spin a magic wand. >> reporter: it was a sad irony that during the very heart of obama's presidency that the
country was racked by the highly publicized killings of unarmed blacks by place, including eric garner, michael brown, philando castile. >> trayvon martin could have been me 35 years ago. >> reporter: and that one case that led to the rise of the black lives matter movement, the killing of 17-year-old trayvon martin by george zimmerman. >> we the jury find george zimmerman not guilty. >> the eruption after the acquittal of george zimmerman was absolutely the moment that birthed black lives matter. i think there is a lot of pent-up angst that explodes on july 13, 2013, in response to that acquittal. >> reporter: black lives matter quickly blossomed into a potent social and political force, aided by cellphones and social media, which spread the ugly face of racial injustice for all to see. >> black lives matter!
>> i've never seen anything like it. and it's a -- it's a result of our cellphones. i think he took us three months to organize birmingham. and then only 55 people showed up to go to jail with martin luther king. they can get 55,000 in 15 minutes. >> reporter: now many members of a younger, socially aware generation look back at the march on washington with gratitude, but also with what they regard as the event's limitations. >> it was a huge moment. it was an impactful moment, but many women were left out that were at the core of the movement. and those who actually did the work behind the scenes who didn't get as much credit. >> i think that the organizers were trying to engage in a balancing act between making
themselves feel safe to power in washington, d.c. while still advocating for the black community. and had they been willing to maybe follow the advice of younger and more spirited activists like john lewis perhaps we would have been able to get even further. >> i pledge my heart and my mind and my body unequivocally and without regard to personal sacrifice. >> how do you pledge? >> i pledge to carry the message of the march to my friends and neighbors back home. and the audience -- everybody said, "with all my heart." we did not live up to our pledge.
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jr. a father, a brother, a friend. >> george floyd became the straw that broke the camel's back. >> you enjoying that -- right now, bro. >> for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, we saw a man pleading for his life, and all the officer had to do was just stand up or move from his throat and perhaps this man would have been alive. >> reporter: attorney lee merritt says little has changed since martin luther king jr. talked about the dream back in 1963. >> dr. king said police brutality more than he said integration. police brutality was a major civil rights issue of that time. and it remains so today. >> reporter: four police officers have now been charged in george floyd's death. officer derek chauvin, who knelt on floyd's neck for more than 8 minutes, charged with murder, the three other police officers have been charged with aiding and abetting murder and manslaughter.
four have yet to enter pleas. and just this week, another black man, another violent confrontation with law enforcement. unlike george floyd, jacob blake survived. >> he was not treated like a human that day. he was treated like some foreign object that didn't belong. i don't care how he comes out of this, but my brother made it, because he is a survivor. >> blake, who had an open warrant connected to a domestic case, shot seven times in the back after police responded to a domestic disturbance call at his address in kenosha, wisconsin. riots have broken out in wisconsin, and the state's department of justice taking over the investigation. >> mr. blake admitted he had a knife in his possession. all involved law enforcement officers are fully cooperating with dci during the investigation. >> reporter: so far, no charges against the officers involved in blake's shooting. >> police brutality is state-sanctioned violence. >> when they're doubling down on an abusive system of policing
that's stealing the lives and the dignity of black people, we don't have anything to lose. >> on average, the american police population kills about three people a day, roughly 1,100 people a year. that is not something that we as a society should come to accept. >> michael brown, sean bell, elijah mcclain -- so many killings, so much of an impact on the black community. >> i haven't cried one time. i stopped crying years ago. i am numb. i have been watching police murderer people that look like me for years. i don't want your pity. i want change. >> reporter: and now is the time, agrees reverend william barber for the change to begin. >> we're going to decide now that with every breath we have, we're gonna breathe freedom and justice and love into this democracy, and we're not going to stop. >> you see a willingness of folks to step out fully and completely and really seize this
moment to usher in real visions of freedom. >> just this week, several pro athletes taking a stand against brutality, refusing to play their regularly scheduled games. >> we are all fighting against a system of racialized control. right now it's mass incarceration and police brutality, but the fact is, it's just a systemic racism directed at the african-american population. >> reporter: actor kendrick sampson says he experienced police violence while protesting in los angeles. >> they brutalized us. shot us with rubber bullets, used batons. >> yo, yo, yo, yo, watch out. don't touch me. i have a permanent wound on my chest and then i have some very visible ones, five, on my leg and those are from rubber bullets. >> reporter: but racial bias goes deeper than police brutality, says reverend barber.
it's deeply engrained into the fabric of society. it can't be limited to a single issue. >> systemic racism is massive voter suppression. systemic racism is the re-segregation of our public schools. racism is mass incarceration, and it is the racist application of the death penalty. >> some insist the road to reconciliation must include a kind of financial compensation for the crimes of the past. >> i do not know how that would be implemented, but i do know that reparations were made to the japanese. and reparations were made to the jews. and they figured out how to do it. >> if we're not looking at reparations, we're not getting to the root of the problem. we're not seeking justice, true justice. >> reporter: and true justice, says reverend barber, transcends
race. >> we must bring together an intersectional coalition of people of every race, creed, color, and sexuality. >> you have to mobilize. you have to organize. you have to strategize, and then you have to vote in every election -- not just this most important one coming up, but every election. >> congressman john lewis penned some final words of encouragement for today's young leaders. writing, when historians pick up their pens and they write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation that laid down the heavy burdens of hate. >> we are going to be a great generation! my grandfather predicted this very moment. he said that we were moving into a new phase of the struggle. the first phase was the civil rights, and the new phase is genuine equality! >> i think the story of the 21st
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obstacles, each of us is held responsible for learning to love, learning to see the mystery and the marvel of the human race. >> so if we want to see this next generation of leaders go further than the generation behind them, we need to continue to stand with them. we must engage and empower them. >> whose streets? >> our streets! >> no justice! >> no peace. >> black lives matter has given us a continuation of "we hold these truths to be self-evident that all are created equal." >> what we see in this moment is a willingness of people, young and old, people of all races, being willing to say, i don't have anything to lose by imagining and building something new.
>> all of us have to roll up our sleeves. we have to work for change, and we have to be the change. ♪ lift every voice and sing >> what matters is lifting up the human dignity of all humankind, that every human being has worth and dignity. ♪ lift every voice and sing ♪ till earth and heaven ring ♪ ring with the harmonies of liberty ♪ ♪ and i'll rejoice and rise ♪ high as the skies ♪ let it resound loud as the roaring sea ♪ >> thank you.
>> what a night of history. a day of history, separated by 57 years. the march may have gone virtual in parts, but it's still asking the same basic questions -- demanding the same basic rights. something to think about as you dream tonight. i'm deborah roberts. for all of us at "20/20" and abc news, good night.
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