1957 May 17

“Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom”: 1957 Civil Rights March on Washington


The “Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom” was probably the first major African-American march on Washington. An estimated 25,000 people came to Washington, D.C., on this day, the third anniversary of Brown v Board of Education (May 17, 1954), to demand civil rights for African-Americans. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King gave a speech entitled “Give Us the Ballot.”

Two subsequent civil rights marches, which are also largely forgotten, occurred on October 25, 1958, and April 18, 1959. All three have been overshadowed by the famous 1963 March on Washington (August 28, 1963), where Dr. King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

In the first African-American march on Washington, 5,000 people conducted a silent march in front of the White House and the U.S. Senate building on June 22, 1922 to protest lynching and to call for a federal anti-lynching law.

Read Martin Luther King’s speech, “Give Us the Ballot”:http://www.mlkonline.net/ballot.html

Learn more about civil rights activism in the late 1950s: http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/us-civil-rights-activists-campaign-federal-government-action-1957-63

Learn more about marching on Washington: Lucy Barber, Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition (2002)

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