A frank and perspicuous study of the watershed 1963 event in the Civil Rights Movement.
Rather than build their thoroughly researched account around Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, Williams and Long focus on what went on behind the scenes to organize the one-day March on Washington, thrash out a unified vision of its purpose in the face of conflicting agendas, and bring it off without sparking violence from either marchers or police. (There were, astonishingly, no event-related arrests.) As in their powerful profile of Jackie Robinson (Call Him Jack, 2022), the authors unflinchingly retain the racist language in many of their period quotes to illuminate the violent temper of the times. They also offer eye-opening portrayals of the generally idolized Kennedy brothers and scorching views of the secondary roles Black women were forced to take by the march’s male leaders. They brightly commend the courage and organizing skills of “gay, pacifist, socialist ex-convict” Bayard Rustin and highlight march director A. Philip Randolph’s dreams of working change through collective action as well as the rousing speeches of young firebrand John Lewis and others. Numerous photos and news clippings add immediacy to events, and though the main story closes with the dispersal of the crowd at the historic day’s end, rich troves of additional facts and questions posed to readers spur further research and reflection.
Coherent, compellingly passionate, rich in sometimes-startling and consistently well-founded insights.(source notes, image credits, index) (Nonfiction. 12-15)