Magazine article The Nation's Health

Messages of King's 1963 March on Washington Still Ring True Today

Magazine article The Nation's Health

Messages of King's 1963 March on Washington Still Ring True Today

Article excerpt

In August, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., opened to the public. The official opening ceremony, like King's dream, had to be postponed, this time because of a hurricane.

In 1963, 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, leaders called people to the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom because the nation was in crisis, with millions unemployed and segregation a reality. A flier promoting the march, now on file at Cornell University, noted that "discrimination and economic deprivation plague the nation and rob all people, Negro and white, of dignity and self-respect."

Despite the progress that has been made since that historic march, the nation has far to go. The unemployment rate for the ongoing recession has remained at or above 8.8 percent during the past two years, according to the Economic Policy Institute, with higher rates among blacks and Hispanics. Basic rights and dignity on the job are being undermined as organized labor is attacked and weakened. Public education, seen as a major tool to guarantee social justice and equality, is on the defensive across the nation. Achievement gaps by race, ethnicity and class persist and often widen.

A recent Pew Research Center report found that the wealth gap is widening in the U.S., particularly for people of color.

The difference in household wealth--defined as the sum of household assets such as houses, cars and savings minus debt--among racial and ethnic groups is significant. …

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