A Photo Diary of the March on Washington

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Today is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous (and amazingly, partially-improvised) "I Have a Dream" speech. So what was it like to be there in the midst of this historic civil rights demonstration? We combed the photo archives at the Associated Press to put the together a photo diary of the event. 

Here Roosevelt Nesmith of New Jersey visits the Washington Monument with his three-year-old son the day before the march. You can see the stacks of signs that demonstrators would carry the next day.


Volunteers prepare the signs to be passed out.

Marchers traveled to Washington, D.C. from all across the country for the march. Here, sit-in singers rehearse while waiting for their bus to D.C. in New Haven.

Demonstrators from Pittsburgh (including YWCA and church members) arrive at Union Station the morning of the march.

One man, Leder Smith, roller skated all the way from Chicago. Here he is starting his journey on Michigan Avenue.

More arrive by bus.

And some high-profile guests came by plane. Here are (from left) opera singer Marian Anderson, executive secretary of the NAACP Roy Wilkins, actor Paul Newman, Rev. Robert Spike of the National Council of Churches in New York City, and actress Faye Emerson.

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On the morning of August 28, crowds start to form on the National Mall. Austin Clinton Brown of Georgia, who was nine at the time, reflected the scene with his sunglasses.


It's estimated that more than 200,000 marchers gathered to hear the speeches and songs.

Washington Monument workers had a big job that day — here are two pinning "usher" armbands on each other.

And here's Martin Luther King marching arm-in-arm with demonstrators.

Here, demonstrators wait outside the Lincoln Memorial to hear MLK, John Lewis, and others speak.

And here's the iconic photo of MLK waving to the crowd, speech notes in hand.

You can hear his "I Have a Dream" speech in full today.

President Kennedy posing with civil rights leaders inside the White House that day. They are (from left) Whitney Young of the National Urban League, MLK, John Lewis of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Rabbi Joachim Prinz of the American Jewish Congress, Dr. Eugene P. Donnaly of the National Council of Churches, A. Philip Randolph of the AFL-CIO, JFK, Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers, Vice-President Johnson (just visible in the back), and Wilkins. 

The leaders also made a visit to the Capitol. Here they are with Senator Everett Dirksen.

Demonstrators stayed on the National Mall all day. Some dipped their toes in the water to cool off (the temperature was in the 80s that day).

Here's a nice photo of James Baldwin and Marlon Brando (behind them are Harry Belafonte and Charlton Heston).

Here's Union Station that evening, filled with demonstrators trying to get home. 

All photos via the Associated Press. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.