Many worried of low turnout for 'March on Washington' 50th - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Many worried of low turnout for 'March on Washington' 50th

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

It was an historic moment in the Civil Rights movement half a century ago.

On Aug. 28 thousands from around the nation are expected to make the pilgrimage to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the famed "March on Washington."

In Memphis organizers of a bus trip to the nation's capitol for the celebration are worried the turnout won't be as strong as the they hoped.

MLK Memorial may not be ready for March of Washington anniversary (myFOXDC.com)
http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/23117293/mlk-memorial-may-not-be-ready-for-anniversary

A split schedule of events and a lack of public interest could undermine the chances of having huge crowds to mark the 50th anniversary.

At the time it was the largest protest ever staged in Washington, D.C. It was also notable for the coverage it received from the television media as the event was carried live.

So, why is it a watershed mark in American history may receive the cold shoulder from succeeding generations of people the event was trying to blaze a trail of equality for.

As the calendar in 2013 again intersects with history, Aug. 28 will commemorate the 50th anniversary of the iconic "March on Washington," which solidified the National Civil Rights Movement as it had never been before nor after. An estimated throng of more than 200,000 people peacefully and across racial lines, displayed an unparalleled unity of recognition and purpose, in support of total equality for then 20 million Negroes in America.

"The Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty, in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity," Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in 1963.

Yet, the 50 year celebration of the event, which was highlighted by Dr. King's electrifying "I Have a Dream" speech, appears headed toward a fragmentation that could drastically effect the anticipated turnout in the nation's capitol that week.

"Aug. 24, Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King (III), they're having their sort of 'March on Washington,' which is less commemorative and more sort of more action-oriented," said Dr. Charles McKinney, Rhodes history professor. "This is what needs to be happening now. Here are the challenges, here are the disparities."

Then on the actual day marking the march, President Barack Obama will be the featured speaker in a speech expected to concentrate on the historical perspective associated with the event. The splitting of the two events has no doubt contributed to, so far, a light response to a planned bus trip to Washington leaving the National Civil Rights Museum on Aug. 22 and returning on Aug. 25.

"We've partnered with Heritage Tours and the NAACP and we're chartering a bus to Washington, D.C.," said Barbara Andrews of the NCRM. "We invite people to sign up with Heritage Tours or call the museum for information right away. On the actual date of the march, we are having a courtyard concert. It's called 'Remembering the message.'"

However, it can't be denied with every passing year the memories of the march and the circumstances surrounding it have dimmed in the minds of succeeding generations. A Commercial-Appeal editorial cartoon served as a blunt reminder of the prevailing segregationist attitudes the march was trying to expose.

Trumpeted as monumental in the Black media outlets, mainstream newspapers of the day had predicted dire consequences only to later express genuine surprise the march came off without violence. But, 50 years ago, the non-violent protest had a specific agenda leading to the eventual passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The Washington march was a milestone event whose importance the passage of  time should not obscure.

"Our job is really to educate the public," Andrews said. "Our jobs is to really tell more about why that march took place, who was there, to let them hear the voices of the people who spoke."

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