Today, Americans from around the country will descend upon the nation's capital to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the signature moment of which was the delivery of the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Take a step back into that day and revisit this historic moment in the American civil rights movement.
Before A. Philip Randolph headed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, he, along with Bayard Rustin, organized the March on Washington Movement in the early 1940s, which first envisioned the tactic of large-scale demonstrations in the capital to protest discrimination.
Rustin, pictured here, organized the 1963 march and is shown here going over the route the demonstrators will follow.
Rustin was not only a civil rights advocate on behalf of black Americans, but later in life would support gay and lesbian causes. His sexual identity as a homosexual, however, proved to be a talking point of critics seeking to discredit Rustin and the movement.
On the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the march was initially planned to focus on jobs and economic inequality, particularly along racial lines. It was also a call for the end of segregation and legally instituted persecution of blacks in the Jim Crow South. The march was also seen by some civil rights groups as a means to bolster support for a civil rights bill proposed by the Kennedy administration.
In this photo, King, Randolph and other leaders of the civil rights movement meet with President John F. Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and staff.
Organizers had hoped to rally around 100,000 people to the event in Washington, D.C. Instead, they managed to muster closer to a quarter million marchers.
Despite the event being organized to be a nonviolent protest, authorities had set up crowd control measures out of fear of a riot breaking out. Military police lined the National Mall and dozens of Army helicopters patrolled the skies over the march. Nearly 6,000 police officers were on duty, as well as 2,000 men from the National Guard. Four thousand soldiers stood at the ready in the D.C. suburbs alone, and 15,000 paratroopers were on standby. The march took place without major incident, however.
In this photo, a policeman gets into a scuffle with a demonstrator.
Although the legacy of the march is one of a resounding success, marking a milestone in civil rights history, there were a few hiccups on the day of the event. The march was initially behind schedule due to organizers meeting with members of Congress at the appointed time. Marian Anderson, who sang an open-air concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 after being refused other venues in a segregated D.C., failed to arrive on time to lead the program with the National Anthem.
In this photo, a marcher who has fainted is aided by police officers and National Guardsmen.
The 16th entry on the program for the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., stood out among the other speakers with the soaring oratory of his "I Have a Dream Speech." In it, King lays out his vision for the future in which the United States has reconciled with its history of slavery and racial divide to become a nation that affords freedom and justice to all its people.
King's address captured the spirit of the day, and was quickly hailed as a rhetorical masterstroke.
Civil rights leaders pose in front of the Lincoln Memorial. Of the men in this group, only John Lewis, the youngest speaker at the event and currently a congressman representing Georgia's 5th district, has survived to the 50th anniversary.
Taken over the shoulder of the statue of Abraham Lincoln, this shot shows the view of the Reflecting Pool and the crowds surrounding it from the stage. Fifty years later, tens of thousands of demonstrators are uniting in the National Mall to call for a more equal America.