It was the culmination of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
The march made specific demands (according to Wikipedia): “an end to racial segregation in public school; meaningful civil rights legislation, including a law prohibiting racial discrimination in employment; protection of civil rights workers from police brutality; a $2 minimum wage for all workers; and self-government for the District of Columbia, then governed by congressional committee.”
“More than a quarter of a million people of diverse ethnicities attended the event, sprawling from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial onto the National Mall and around the reflecting pool. At the time, it was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington's history. King's I Have a Dream speech electrified the crowd. It is regarded, along with Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, as one of the finest speeches in the history of American oratory. President Kennedy, himself opposed to the march, met King afterwards with enthusiasm - repeating King's line back to him; "I have a dream", while nodding with approval.”
Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith wrote the must read book on racism in our contemporary world (Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America). It shows how evangelical Christians have failed miserably to move our nation away from racialization.
You can read an excerpt of the book here. This short article is required reeading for the students in my Ethics class.
technorati: spiritual formation, social action