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17 Rarely Seen Photos from the March on Washington

Take a look through these historic photos of one of the nation's most iconic protests.

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Civil Rights March on WashingtonBettmann/Getty Images

Knowing our history

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom that took place in Washington, D.C. in August 1963 is one of the most iconic protests in American history. It was here where 250,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial to advocate for equal rights for Black Americans; it was here where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. With the recent protests that have swept our nation after the murder of George Floyd, it’s now as important as ever to revisit and be reminded of our country’s long history for the struggle for equal rights. Because if we don’t know history, we are doomed to repeat it.

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March On WashingtonBob Parent/Getty Images

Life in color

This image depicts civil rights demonstrators resting on benches during the March on Washington. The protestors hold signs, such as the one stating “We march for integrated schools now!” and the other that so poignantly reads, “No U.S. ‘Dough’ to Help Jim Crow.” Color film was fairly rare for the era, since color was so much more expensive than the typical black and white film used in the 1960s, but it really modernizes the scene and puts it into context. Make sure you’re aware of these 11 “facts” about the Civil Rights Movement that just aren’t true.

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Jackson Sings At March On WashingtonBob Parent/Getty Images

The Queen of Gospel

Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t the only person to speak (or sing) at the march. This photo shows Mahalia Jackson, the American gospel singer and activist known as “The Queen of Gospel,” belting out a song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King can be seen sitting below Jackson, with activist Whitney Young in between the couple. Think before you speak—these 12 everyday expressions are actually racist.

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SLUG: 125 Unique CREDIT: Photo by Rowland Scherman/The U.S. NaThe Washington Post/Getty Images

Power of the youth

Her eyes seem like they’re penetrating your soul. This young civil rights demonstrator was caught looking directly into the camera while holding a pennant that reads “March for Jobs & Freedom.” Throughout history, kids have been involved in larger movements. Here are 12 inspiring photos of kids in today’s anti-racist movement.

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Martin Luther King During the March on WashingtonBettmann/Getty Images

Through another lens

Most of us have probably seen the iconic black and white shot of Martin Luther King, Jr. waving to the crowd while delivering his “I Have A Dream” speech, but this color photograph gives a slightly different perspective of the scene. The Washington Monument looms in the background, a reminder of how this march was so important to everyone in the nation. These are 14 other rarely seen photos of Martin Luther King, Jr.

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March On WashingtonExpress/Getty Images

Hair of the dog

The brusque words found on this huge banner really put the struggle for equal rights into stark perspective. Here are 22 of the most powerful signs seen at recent Black Lives Matter protests.

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March On Washington For Jobs And FreedomKeystone-France/Getty Images

Crowd control

This photograph, taken towards the back of the crowd that had gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial, shows just how many people came out for the March on Washington. It’s no wonder that this was one of the biggest protests in American history. Take a look at these vintage photos of unity we all need to see right now.

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Demonstrators Gather at Lincoln MemorialBettmann/Getty Images

Bird’s eye view

This shot also shows the extent of the crowd that had gathered, with an incredible bird’s eye view perspective of the Lincoln Memorial. It’s kind of like the original drone shot. Fighting for racial justice now isn’t just happening in America. Here are 21 powerful protest photos that show global solidarity against racial injustice.

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Protesters Holding SignsWally McNamee/Getty Images

On the ground

This close-up image of protestors on the ground in D.C. shows that the crowd at the March on Washington was racially diverse, much like the current day protests for George Floyd. As is often said, this is not a Black vs. White issue—it’s an everybody vs. racism issue.

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Marchers arriving at Union Station for the March on Washington, Washington DCUniversal History Archive/Getty Images

Arriving at Union Station

This image captures the hustle and bustle inside Union Station on the day of the march. In the back of the photograph, there’s a big banner promoting the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights organization founded by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders. One of SCLC’s major missions was for the expansion of voting rights, as shown by their banner claiming, “Crusade For Voters.” These are 13 things about Black History Month you didn’t learn in school.

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At The Lincoln Memorial During March On WashingtonPhotoQuest/Getty Images

Meeting of the minds

The iconic civil rights leaders pose in front of the statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial. Standing from left to right, these brave men are as follows: Matthew Ahmann, director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice; Rabbi Joachim Prinz; John Lewis, leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC); Eugene Carson Blake, a Protestant minister; Floyd McKissick, leader of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); and Walter Reuther, labor union leader. Sitting from left to right are Whitney Young, executive director of the National Urban League; unidentified; A. Philip Randolph, labor union leader; Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.; and Roy Wilkins, leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). These are 35 Black Americans you didn’t learn about in history class.

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The March On WashingtonPhotoQuest/Getty Images

An American icon

Another high angle view of the massive crowd at the March on Washington, but this time in color. This part of the crowd circles the Washington Monument and Reflecting Pool. Learn the psychology behind how we learn prejudice.

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Martin Luther King Shaking Hands with CrowdBettmann/Getty Images

For the people

Here, Martin Luther King, Jr. is seen shaking hands with the public during the march. The vibrant coloring of this particular photograph gives the image a contemporary feeling. These are 12 Martin Luther King, Jr “facts” that just aren’t true.

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March On Washington ButtonExpress Newspapers/Getty Images

All in the details

This close-up image shows a button on the label of a female demonstrator that reads “Equal-Rights in ’63” with the drawing of Black and White hands shaking hands. Heading to a protest yourself? These are things you should bring—and not bring.

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Race ProtestsKurt Severin/Getty Images

In the midst of the march

These civil rights demonstrators were captured in the midst of the March on Washington, chanting and clapping their hands. The woman in front wears a paper cap that reads “Full employment” while a sign in the back reads “We demand an end to police brutality now!” A fairly unsettling feeling, as current protests in our country and around the world are condemning the same thing nearly 60 years later.

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Peter, Paul, & Mary Perfom At The March On WashingtonPhotoQuest/Getty Images

Music at the march

Mahalia Jackson wasn’t the only person to bring music to the march. This photo depicts the American folk and pop group Peter, Paul and Mary performing at the March on Washington. The trio sang Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” (Dylan also performed at the march) and Pete Seeger’s “If I Had a Hammer.” Find out some small ways you can fight racism every day.

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Bayard Rustin Speaking at Lincoln MemorialBettmann/Getty Images

The director calling the shots

This image depicts Bayard Rustin, the deputy director of the March on Washington, addressing the crowd. The symmetrical composition with Rustin at the center makes for a powerful image. Learn about where the concept of race even comes from.

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March on Washington Participants at Lincoln MemorialBettmann/Getty Images

On Lincoln’s shoulders

This unusual angle, taken behind the Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial, shows the entire setup of the march from a different perspective. The photo itself is symbolic in a way, with the past (symbolized by President Lincoln) behind the speakers and the future (symbolized by the crowd) in front of them. All we can do now is keep moving forward and advocate for equality. If you’re questioning why racial injustice still hasn’t been eradicated after the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, this is why desegregation didn’t put an end to racism in America.

Lucie Turkel
Lucie Turkel is a cultural journalist, researcher, and digital producer specializing in social justice, history, and lifestyle pieces. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society's Key Reporter journal, the University of Connecticut Daily Campus, and UConn Communications.