Via NPR this morning:
INSKEEP: What did people in Washington expect as that day dawned in 1963?
TAYLOR BRANCH [author]: They expected riot and mayhem. Liquor sales were canceled in the District of Columbia for the first time since the end of Prohibition in 1933. Plasma was stockpiled. Elective surgery was cancelled. Major League Baseball canceled not one but two Washington Senators games against the Minnesota Twins, even though the stadium was four miles from the Lincoln Memorial, for fear that baseball fans would be casualties of the riot...this was an overwhelmingly white culture and white country, and the media presumed that you couldn't assemble 100,000 Black folks in the nation's capital with political grievances without a lot of them running amok.The "pre-invasion jitters" that rattled our nation's capital when Dr. King and others gathered for the March on Washington reflect the kind of racism that our country struggles with today. It's a racism marked by behavior and bias that have been baked into us since birth, and that have often been codified, intentionally or not, into our laws and zoning. It's a racism that many in our country leverage to incite fear in their constituents so that they might continue to hold positions of power.
Dr. King, in his speech that day, did not speak about his children being able to walk down the street without fear of being violently attacked. He spoke of a world where his children and other black people living in the United States would be judged equally. And we still aren't very good at that, be it by our laws or by our conscious and unconscious biases, despite being decades removed from Dr. King's work on that front. Last summer, and the "pre-invasion jitters" that its rallies still brought with them, make that quite clear.
Considering all that today. Thank you for your work, Dr. King, and may we all strive to continue it.
Photo credit: Wes Candela Photography