The March: Scholars Have Their Say

We asked academics to put the 1963 event and this year's commemorations in context.

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Donald Yacovone, Director of Research and Program Development, Harvard University; Associate, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University 

The 1963 March on Washington, which has become an iconic event in the history of the civil rights movement, focused national attention on the injustices of segregation and legitimized the civil rights movement in the eyes of many Americans who previously had been swayed by the segregationists' appeal to anti-communist ideology. In retrospect, [the famous march] gave the civil rights movement a new legitimacy and elevated Martin Luther King Jr. to heroic status. But it also served to simplify the civil rights message, dulling its sharp challenges to American society. We are dealing with the results of that process to this very day, which the murder of Trayvon Martin so painfully displayed.

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