March on Washington: Fresh perspectives from Cornell Africana scholars


Aug. 15, 2013

March on Washington: Fresh perspectives from Cornell Africana scholars

In light of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Cornell University is making two Africana scholars available for interviews.

A new Civil Rights revolution will not be tweeted

Travis Gosa is a professor of Africana studies and social science, and is a member of the Cornell Center for the Study of Inequality. He says:

“Unfortunately, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech comes at a tragic moment for U.S. race relations. A Black family in the White House has sparked a resurgence of racial paranoia and hate-mongering. Hate groups, militia memberships and gun purchases are on the rise. The sense of urgency and unity in the sea of 250,000 protesters at the Lincoln Memorial has fizzled. Sadly, the unstoppable momentum of lunch counter sit-ins and ‘we shall overcome’ sung by youth activists of the Civil Rights generation has ceded to the drive-by activism of Twitter protestors who fixate on the lyrics of celebrity rappers. There is no new Civil Rights movement on the horizon, and the revolution will not be tweeted.

“MLK’s dream of a self-sufficient, black working-class, whose struggle and merit would result in full inclusion into American society has yet to become a reality. To be sure, The March on Washington was for comprehensive civil rights. Yet, workers’ rights, women’s rights and reproductive freedom, environmental justice, and privacy are under siege in Obama’s America. Aug. 28, 2013 is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, but what exactly are we celebrating?”


Remembering the contributions of those who fought alongside Dr. King

Robert Harris is an emeritus professor of Africana Studies, served as an advisor to the Marin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and is author of several books including “The March on Washington Movement.” He says:

“In the public imagination, the August 28, 1963 March on Washington has become ‘Dr. King’s March on Washington.’ Dr. King’s rousing speech on that occasion has come to be known as ‘I Have a Dream,’ with emphasis on the second half of the oration and its aspiration rather than the first half with its instigation of action for change.

“But Dr. King’s dream of racial justice was only part of the story: largely forgotten is renowned labor leader A. Philip Randolph’s dream of economic equality. It was Randolph who threatened a march on Washington in 1941 that influenced President Franklin D. Roosevelt to issue an executive order barring racial discrimination in government employment and in defense industries. Twenty-two years later, it was Randolph who proposed the march on Washington for the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and galvanized support of the major civil rights organizations to make the march a success.

“On this 50th anniversary, let us remember that Dr. King had the opportunity to rouse us with his speech only because of Randolph and the countless others in the freedom struggle in the U.S.”

For interviews contact:

Syl Kacapyr

(607) 255-7701


Contact Syl Kacapyr for information about Cornell’s TV and radio studios.


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