58 years after the March on Washington, U.S. activists brace themselves for national voting rights march


On the 58th anniversary of the ‘March On Washington’, thousands of Americans will descend on the streets of the nation’s capital to ‘March On’ for voting rights. Nationwide rallies will be supported by more than 140 national and local organisations coalescing in opposition to legislation that restricts the right to vote.

Martin Luther King III, Yolanda King, Andrea Waters King and Rev. Al Sharpton are just some of the leading civil rights activists who are advocating to eliminate the Jim Crow filibuster and for the passing of three critical voting rights bills – the For the People Act (H.R.1), John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (H.R.4), and the Washington D.C. Admission Act.

March On for Voting Rights

Recollections of the 1963 March are engraved into the embers of American civil rights history, and Saturday will see Frank Smith, 78, and Larry Rubin, 79, both in attendance - just as they were 58 years ago. Rubin told The Hill that while the most recent measures are more subtle, the impact is just as taxing, with the communities affected showing little sign of change.

“In the 60s, these voter suppression laws were so obviously based on race, courts had no other alternative but to vote against them and support the Voting Rights Act,” Rubin said.

“Now, they, in my opinion, are very clearly class-based, they hurt all poor people. … the folks in that category are disproportionately Black and other people of color.” 

The 1963 March on Washington drew an estimated 300,000 individuals, many of whom were black. It remains one of the largest political rallies for human rights in United States history.

"We will make history"

The 2020 U.S. election showcased the capacity of black activist groups to mobilise communities with great effect, but following a wave of anti-democratic legislation in Republican-dominated states, campaign efforts in support of safeguarding voting rights have escalated. The Brennan Centre note that as of 22 July, this year has seen 18 states enact 30 bills that will make it harder for Americans to vote. 

This includes legislation that will make mail voting and early voting more difficult, impose harsher voter ID requirements, and make faulty voter purges more likely.

Activist efforts in the U.S. have not been without International support too. OBV have led an international call for support ahead of Saturday’s march.

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With the updated John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act having passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Democrats are still seeking additional support from Republican Senators to ensure that this version of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act does not suffer the same fate as the 2019 iteration. Much like 1963, Martin Luther King III believes this weekend’s march will stand as another moment in history. 

“We will make history on Saturday as our honorable speakers and marchers carry the torch for justice my father and so many others carried across the National Mall in 1963.”

Martin Luther King III

Mayowa Ayodele