The March on Washington that occurred 50 years ago Wednesday was planned by the Council for United Civil Rights Leadership, an umbrella organization created in June 1963.
This coalition, whose leaders became known as the "Big Six," included: A. Phillip Randolph, who was chosen as the titular head of the march; James Farmer, president of the Congress of Racial Equality; John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Martin Luther King, Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Roy Wilkins, president of the NAACP; and Whitney Young, president of the National Urban League.
The march was not universally supported among civil rights activists.
Some, including activist Bayard Rustin, who assembled 4,000 volunteer marshals from New York, were concerned it might turn violent, undermining pending legislation and damaging the international image of the movement.
The march was condemned by Malcolm X, estranged spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, who termed it the "farce on Washington."
March organizers disagreed over its purpose. The NAACP and Urban League saw it as a gesture of support for a civil rights bill that had been introduced by the Kennedy administration.
Randolph, King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference saw it as a way of raising both civil rights and economic issues to national attention beyond the Kennedy bill.
The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and Congress of Racial Equality saw it as a way of challenging and condemning the Kennedy administration's inaction and lack of support for civil rights for African-Americans.
Despite their disagreements, organizers set these goals, among others, for the march:
n Passage of meaningful civil rights legislation
n Immediate elimination of school segregation
n A public works program — including job training — for the unemployed
n A federal law prohibiting discrimination in public or private hiring