On August 28, 1963, over a quarter-million people—about two-thirds black and one-third white—held the greatest civil rights demonstration ever. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his iconic “I Have a Dream” oration. And just blocks away, President Kennedy and Congress skirmished over landmark civil rights legislation. As Charles Euchner reveals, the importance of the march is more profound and complex than standard treatments of the 1963 March on Washington allow.
In this major reinterpretation of the Great Day—the peak of the movement—Euchner brings back the tension and promise of that day. Building on countless interviews, archives, FBI files, and private recordings, Euchner shows freedom fighters as complex, often conflicted, characters. He explores the lives of Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the march organizers who worked tirelessly to make mass demonstrations and nonviolence the cornerstone of the movement. He also reveals the many behind-the-scenes battles—the effort to get women speakers onto the platform, John Lewis’s damning speech about the federal government, Malcolm X’s biting criticisms and secret vows to help the movement, and the devastating undercurrents involving political powerhouses Kennedy and FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. For the first time, Euchner tells the story behind King’s “Dream” images.
Euchner’s hour-by-hour account offers intimate glimpses of the masses on the National Mall—ordinary people who bore the scars of physical violence and jailings for fighting for basic civil rights. The event took on the call-and-response drama of a Southern church service, as King, Lewis, Mahalia Jackson, Roy Wilkins, and others challenged the throng to destroy Jim Crow once and for all.
Nobody Turn Me Around will challenge your understanding of the March on Washington, both in terms of what happened but also regarding what it ultimately set in motion. The result was a day that remains the apex of the civil rights movement—and the beginning of its decline.
On August 28, 1963, a quarter of a million people converged on the nation s capital for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Martin Luther King, whose I Have a Dream speech highlighted the occasion, called it the greatest demonstration for freedom in the nation s history. Yale writing instructor Euchner (The Last Nine Innings) presents a pointillist portrait of the occasion, drawing material from historical records and taking oral histories from more than 100 participants. Although 1963 was the 100th anniversary of Lincoln s Emancipation Proclamation, racial segregation remained deeply entrenched in the nation s South, and one specific, practical goal of the march was to desegregate restaurants and hotels. The Kennedy administration mobilized extensive military and police resources, but march leaders, including principal organizer Bayard Rustin and longtime civil rights activist Asa Philip Randolph, were confident (and accurate) in their belief that a peaceful mass demonstration of this scale was not only possible but could change the course of race relations in America. With deft brushstrokes, Euchner not only captures the myriad dimensions of the march itself but places it in its larger historical context, including the escalating war in Vietnam.