What a Difference 50 Years Makes: Holder Rallies Marchers

Back in 1963, few would have envisioned this African-American attorney general delivering broad demands for social justice. 

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Eric Holder (Getty Images)

(The Root) -- In his remarks commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Saturday morning, Attorney General Eric Holder addressed minimum wage, voting rights, LGBT rights, gun control and women's rights, telling the crowd gathered in Washington, D.C., "This morning we affirm that the struggle must and will go on. "

"I feel like some history was just made," commented MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry after the speech, contrasting Holder's explicit push for legislative change to Attorney General Robert Kennedy's silence at the 1963 march.

Encouraging marchers to continue the work of those who were responsible for the civil rights movement of the 1960s and '70s, Holder called for an expanded set of social justice priorities to reflect a changed America. "Our focus has broadened to include the cause of women, Latinos, lesbians, gays, people with disabilities," he said.

The attorney general, who has called for changes to mandatory minimum drug-sentencing laws and sued to halt Texas' redistricting and voter-ID laws, specifically addressed criminal justice and voting rights, saying, "We affirm that the struggle must and will go on until every eligible American has the chance to exercise his or her right to vote unencumbered by discriminatory procedures, rules or practices."

"The beloved community has not yet been realized," he concluded, "But it is finally within our grasp."

Saturday's event, organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, is the first of two rallies this week to mark the anniversary. President Obama will speak at another event Wednesday, the exact anniversary of the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the now-famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

Read all of The Root's March on Washington coverage here.

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