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Marchers demand job & housing equality in DC: 1963 | by Washington Area Spark
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Marchers demand job & housing equality in DC: 1963

The Congress of Racial Equality stages a march from 8th & H Street NE to Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. June 14, 1963 against job bias and housing discrimination in the city and to mourn the death of NAACP leader Medgar W Evers who was shot by a sniper in Mississippi.

 

Here the group marches up North Capitol Street past the Government Printing Office with the U.S. Capitol building in the background.

 

Another march left 16th and Fuller Street NW to head for Lafayette Park.

 

The marches started out with only a dozen people at each location, but hundreds joined along the parade route in the action initiated by Julius Hobson of the District of Columbia branch of the Congress of Racial Equality.

 

The specific demands were the adoption of anti-discrimination housing regulations and adoption of fair employment regulations in the city by the District Commissioners.

 

Among the groups joining CORE were Women’s Strike for Peace, Americans for Democratic Action, NAACP, the Washington Peace Action Center, Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy, SCLC, the Federation of Civic Associations, Democratic Central Committee and the Student Peace Union.

 

The Teamsters Union paid for printing of 100,000 handbills and the Industrial Union Department of the AFL-CIO paid for 4,000 flyers to publicize the event.

 

By the time the rally got underway at Lafayette Park, the Washington Post estimated 3,000 were in attendance. It was the largest local civil rights demonstration since a series of Marion Anderson concerts acted as a protest for rights.

 

Rev. Smallwood Williams, president of the D.C. branch of the SCLC, got the rally underway with a prayer that said in part:

 

“Thou hast made us to know that men of all races must learn to live together as brothers or die as rats…We pray for an immediate elimination of racial segregation, bigotry, bias and Jim Crow-ism, that America will have an immediate new birth of freedom.”

 

From Lafayette Park the group marched to the District (now Wilson) Building where Walter Tobriner, president of the D.C. commissioners, told the group that fair housing regulations would be adopted within the year and promised “early hearings” on a fair employment practices regulation.

 

The marchers then headed to the Justice Department where they were demanding federal protection of civil rights demonstrators and that the Justice Department hire more black people.

 

At the Justice Department Attorney General Robert Kennedy gave an impromptu speech at the Justice Department and defended the administration, but conceded there was more work to do on civil rights.

 

He was confronted by local CORE leader Julius Hobson who asked Kennedy why FBI agents in Jackson, Mississippi did not act when they saw an African American man beaten. Kennedy responded that, “The FBI is not a national police force and has no authority beyond gathering evidence in such cases.”

 

Kennedy was also asked why the Justice Department didn’t hire more African Americans. Kennedy responded that when their administration took over there were only 10 of 500 attorneys in the department that were black and now there were 60.

 

Demonstrators challenged Kennedy that 60 out of now 900 attorneys was not enough. Kennedy responded that, “He was not going to go out and hire a Negro just because he wasn’t white.”

 

Watching the proceedings at the Justice Department, but not joining the group,, Malcolm X offered his thoughts to a Washington Post reporter:

 

“Whenever sheep try to integrate with the wolf, then there is a step forward for the wolf, not the sheep….They have fair housing in New York, but it is worse perhaps than here. This is nothing more than political trickery. The law means nothing when you are Jim Crow….The whites here and Kennedy were just salving their guilty consciences.”

 

For more information and related images, see flic.kr/s/aHskgSB6Zi

 

The photographer is unknown. The image is an auction find.

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Taken on June 14, 1963