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Million Man March

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On October 16th 1995 more than half a million African American men from all over the country took buses, planes, taxies to gather in Washington D.C. This group of men all had one thing in common and it was not their religion or economic status, it was their desire to band together for a true change. The Million Man March was the largest demonstration on Washington in our history and boasted speakers such as Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, poet Maya Angelou, and even had Stevie Wonder in attendance. Topics and speeches were inspirational, complicated and very historically driven.

In order to understand the Million Man March it is important to introduce the history leading up to that point. African American slavery in America began in the 17th century but the movement towards freedom from slavery wasn't until the Civil War. Unfortunately the Civil War far from brought the struggle of American Americans to end but it was the begging of more than 100 years of battling for a truly free lifestyle for the African American community. After the Civil War, especially in the Southern States there was a general consensus that something needed to be done to keep recently emancipated slaves under control. Special laws were established called Jim Crow and were made in order to keep African Americans suppressed and to feel as second class citizens. These laws went as deep as to punish any person that had any African American ancestry at all even if they looked as though they were Caucasian. Jim Crow Laws went hand in hand with the term "Separate but Equal" as time went on. These laws that started in the 1870's were in effect all the way through to the 1960's and included "accommodations" such as separate drinking fountains and train cars. For several years these laws were in effect and relatively unmatched until the 1890's. A man named Homer Plessy who although looked Caucasian was legally of African American decent boarded a white's only box car in New Orleans. He announced his African American ancestry and was quickly ejected from the cart and arrested. This incident in June 1892 was became so important because it was, "African American citizen's first collective effort to challenge the legality of Jim Crow..." The arrest of Homer Plessy and "the lawsuit that followed his arrest represents not only the legal benchmark for Jim Crow legislation but also the culmination of the battle waged...to establish and maintain public rights as citizens." The court case of Plessy went all the way to the US Supreme Court and paved the road for changes in African American Rights.

In the 1950's another battle was being waged for African American equality in public education. Although "buildings, curricula, qualifications and salaries of teachers" , was generally the same in both African American and Caucasian public schools the mental impact of segregation to the development of the children in the African American community was becoming a serious issue. Several studies showed that in separating children of the same age due to race did in fact create the idea of inferiority of African American children to Caucasian children. Supreme Court case records revealed that segregation in schools created a, "feeling of inferiority in black children that scarred the child's self-image and could potentially retard character development." Once again the Supreme Court found in favor civil equality for African Americans unfortunately once again there was no timeline established in the transition away from separate but equal schools to integrated schools. The fight for desegregating public education took a new turn when President Eisenhower took it upon himself in 1954 to create a plan for Washington D.C. schools to make a rapid transformation away from segregation. Unfortunately once again although many states took to the new public education laws there were still difficulty in dustbowl and southern states. It seemed as though regardless of the theoretical steps forward there was still segregation and racial discrimination all over the country. The difficulty the children faced in public education is an important factor because these children facing battles of inequality are the adults that participated in the Million Man March.

A final historical milestone in African American civil rights that must be covered is the 1964 March on Washington when Martin Luther King Jr. made his famous "I have a Dream Speech". The bottom line of the Million Man March is the same as its brother demonstration the 1964 March on Washington. King conducted a speech that touched the more then 200,000 people of all races and status' of life in Washington D.C. King spoke on behalf of the suffering of the African American community since the Emancipation Proclamation. In the first few lines of his speech King states, "The Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination..." The March on Washington D.C. was intended to be a peaceful demonstration that expressed the unfair conditions in which the African American Community is still living in. Their community was suffering from racial discrimination, higher murder rates, lower wages, and a tainted character as portrayed by the media more than any other ethnic group. The urgent need for political support and change was a rooted factor in the March on Washington and still 30 years later the Million Man March had the same tone... "When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned." The Million Man March was a combined effort to express concern for the economic lagging in the African American Community that was still present in 20th century.

October 16th 1995 boasts the largest peaceful demonstration to march on the nation's capital, Washington D.C. in all of history. Although controversy over how many people participated in the march it is safe to say more than half a million African American adult men gathered for what we now know as the Million Man March. It is no secret that African American history is littered with turmoil and disadvantages but unfortunately it cannot be said that it is all history. Louis Farrakhan a leader of the religious group Nation of Islam was the man who called for



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