Fifty years ago today, more than 200,000 people — black and white — gathered in Washington, D.C., to show their support for passage of the Civil Rights Act.
The bill was designed to ensure all American citizens could vote, but especially black citizens in the South. Local laws and blatant intimidation stopped most of the from casting their ballots.
In the years before the March on Washington, those who fought for voting rights often were beaten while local police watched then arrested for disturbing the peace. In many counties in southern states, African Americans were the majority of the population, yet few to none appeared on the voting rolls.
Fifty years ago today, many southern states still had “Whites Only” signs hanging on public water fountains, and many restaurants prohibited blacks from sitting down to eat.
Through the efforts of thousands of people, those walls of prejudice and discrimination started to crumble.
The March on Washington was a major part of that change. Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech inspired many people across the country — including local residents — to work for equality.
Many of the obvious barriers standing in the way of fellow Americans are gone now. They have no disappeared completely, but the door of opportunity stands open to Americans of all colors who want to step through them.
Work remains, but the nation is much closer to King’s dream of a people being judged on the content of their character — not the color of their skin.