These days, organizations march on the Mall in Washington, D.C., with relative regularity.
Anyone who visits one or another of the Smithsonian museums on any given day no doubt will get a look at one or another small group exercising First Amendment rights of peaceable assembly and free speech.
Larger gatherings of thousands, tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people aren't everyday occurrences, but they happen with enough regularity that they're not all that noteworthy. Certainly, the large ones are covered by various news organizations, but rarely in recent years have any of them been worth more than a footnote in a history book.
This is in stark contrast to the historic significance of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, whose 50th anniversary was celebrated locally and in Capital over the past several days.
Half a century ago, a gathering of 250,000 people who were mostly of African American heritage was a prospect that raised concerns. In 1963, the Civil War had been over for a little less than a century, but the Confederate battle ensign, incorporated into state flags, continued to fly over the capitals of a few Southern states. More importantly, racist restrictions and bigoted attitudes remained in place across much of the country.
The march was a touchstone event in changing all that. It was the date when Martin Luther King Jr. famously told of his dream that children would be judged based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin.
Things didn't change right away, but 50 years later, and after much struggle, an African American president was the keynote speaker on the Mall in D.C. Unfortunately, there remain people who judge the president based on the color of his skin, rather than the content of his character.
Still, a lot of progress has been made, and the March 50 years ago gave the movement enough momentum that there's reason to expect more progress.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun