Film: The March on Washington

Introduction

The march on Washington DC in 1963 is remembered today as a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement. It assembled over 200,000 people (mostly African Americans) in a peaceful demonstration in favour of a proposed bill that in effect would end segregation. The Civil Rights Bill, first introduced by President John F. Kennedy, was passed the following year by President Lyndon B. Johnson. (Kennedy had since been assassinated.) The bill met stiff opposition in Congress, especially from representatives from the southern states.
 

Tasks
 

  1. Why is Abraham Lincoln mentioned and why is his statue shown at the beginning of the film?
  2. The demonstration is described as being “more like a Sunday outing” to begin with. What do you think is meant by this?
  3. The commentary states that the police had “little to do but keep dissident groups away from the rally”. What do you think these dissident groups would have against the main demonstration?
  4. How would you describe the tone and attitude of the commentary to events it describes?
  5. The song “We shall overcome” is heard several times during the film. It was originally a Gospel song, but in the 1950s and 60s it became the anthem of the Civil Rights movement. Belwo are the lyrics. Why do you think the song became so popular? What effect does it have on you when you hear it?

 

We Shall Overcome

We shall overcome, we shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
That we shall overcome someday

We'll walk hand in hand, we'll walk hand in hand
We'll walk hand in hand someday
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
That we shall overcome someday

We shall live in peace, we shall live in peace
We shall live in peace someday
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
That we shall overcome someday

We shall brothers be, we shall brothers be
We shall brothers be someday
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
That we shall overcome someday

The truth shall make us free, truth shall make us free
The truth shall make us free someday
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
That we shall overcome someday

We are not afraid, we are not afraid
We are not afraid today
Oh deep in my heart, I do believe
That we shall overcome someday.