60 year anniversary: "I Have a Dream," march on Washington

Posted Aug. 28, 2023 by

Commemorating MLK Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" and Jobs and Freedom March on Washington 60 years later

On August 28 we commemorate the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's "I Have a Dream" speech and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. This past Saturday, AFSCME members and leaders joined tens of thousands on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to mark the anniversary of the historic civil rights demonstration that marked a turning point in the struggle for racial and economic justice.

“It was more than a protest against Jim Crow; it was a demonstration for labor rights,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said at the commemoration event. “It was about fighting poverty, fighting prejudice, addressing segregation, addressing deprivation. It was about the unbreakable link between racial justice and economic justice," he said. Labor leaders played a key role in the march, held August 28, 1963. A. Philip Randolph, then president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was the event’s main organizer alongside civil rights leader and activist Bayard Rustin.

AFSCME's labor history and the civil rights movement are so heavily intertwined. In 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee, the heart of the racially segregated South, Black sanitation workers faced poverty wages and degrading, dangerous conditions on the job. The city refused to see the men or hear their grievances. But after two sanitation workers were crushed to death on the job, 1,300 of their AFSCME Local 1733 brothers said enough is enough, risking everything by going on strike. They marched in the streets demanding dignity and respect. They wanted recognition of their union…and recognition of their humanity. Ultimately Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for that struggle, a sacrifice we must never, ever forget.

Want to learn more about the Memphis Sanitation Strike? Listen to the AFSCME "IAMStory" podcast

Click below to listen to Pres. Saunders commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. and his contribution to racial and economic justice.