Activists Gather On Golden Anniversary of the 1963 "March on Washington"

Tens of thousands gathered near D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial Saturday in the first of two events planned in remembrance of, and in sequel to, the 1963 'March on Washington' protests.

Co-hosted by the NAACP, Saturday's march saw activists commemorating the famous civil rights rally of fifty years ago, while also drawing attention to how much has yet to be done.

Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., who was the youngest speaker in the 1963 march, called on protestors to keep fighting the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision to essentially gut the Voting Rights Act by cutting out a key anti-discrimination provision.

“The vote is precious. It is almost sacred,” said Lewis. “It is the most powerful non-violent tool that we have. We must say to Congress: fix the voting rights act."

"We cannot give up. We cannot give out. And we cannot give in," he added.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder also spoke at the event, encouraging activists to keep fighting for equality inclusively and for everyone.

"Our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, of Latinos, of Asian Americans, of lesbians, of gays, of people with disabilities. And of countless others across this great country who still yearn for equality," said Holder. "I know that in the 21st century we will see an America that is more perfect and more fair."

Also on activists' mind was of course the shooting of Trayvon Martin and subsequent acquittal of George Zimmerman.

NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous penned an article last week calling on activists to march again, saying that "in the past month, hundreds of cities held vigils and rallies to protest the Zimmerman verdict. The nation is having a serious conversation about racial profiling for the first time since 9/11."

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took place in Washington, D.C., on August 28, and was attended by roughly a quarter of a million people, the largest demonstration ever seen in the capital. It was during this march that Martin Luther King stood at Lincoln Memorial and made his infamous "I Have A Dream" speech (you can feel your eyes well up by reading it here).

Here's a video of the original protest:

PublicResourceOrg on YouTube

On Wednesday — the actual anniversary of the march — President Obama will make a speech from those very same steps.

[Image: mikek7890 via Flickr]