Skip to Content

Educators to commemorate 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

Events to bridge the past with the future of the civil rights movement

WASHINGTON - August 20, 2013 -

This week, National Education Association (NEA) leaders and educators from across the country will join prominent civil rights leaders, as well as progressive, community, and labor activists to commemorate the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which took place 50 years ago this month at the Lincoln Memorial. It was during this historic march that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech.

“We recognize and celebrate that we have made much progress since the historic March on Washington,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “But as we look at current events around the country today, sadly we know the ‘Dream’ has not been fulfilled and the battle for justice continues. The march on Washington this year is not just a commemoration but a continuation of the efforts started 50 years ago. It’s about making sure we pass the torch to the next generation of social justice and civil rights activists.”

Educators have played a critical role fostering social justice throughout U.S. history—from seeking funds for the education of free slaves after the American Civil War to speaking out against the internment of Japanese-American children during World War II to opposing the segregation of Black children in schools that were inherently unequal.

But with the emergence of voter suppression laws, growing income inequality, and insidious new forms of racial discrimination, such as stop-and-frisk and Stand Your Ground laws, NEA members everywhere are renewing their commitment to advocate for social justice and equal opportunity.

“Today more than ever we need to organize and fight for voting rights, for workers’ rights, for women’s rights, for the right of workers to organize, for immigrant and for LGBT rights,” said Van Roekel. “Now more than ever we need to lay the groundwork for the next 50 years so that we can turn the dream into reality.”

National Action to Realize the Dream March—August 24
Education was among the list of goals for the 1963 March. It was then—and it remains now—a key civil rights issue. NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and a contingent of educators from across the country will join the March on Saturday, August 24, 2013, with President Van Roekel speaking during the program. NEA members are encouraged to share their personal stories here and discuss why quality public education for all students is the civil rights issue of our time.

Eyewitness to History: Hear from Four Educators who were at the March on Washington 50 Years Ago
Four retired NEA educators who were among the 250,000-plus people who witnessed Dr. King’s speech and participated in the march will accompany President Van Roekel on the Realize the Dream March on Saturday, August 24. They are available to share what they saw and heard, and reflect on how that experience affected their lives as educators. For advance interviews, please email

During their time in Washington DC, the retired NEA members also will take part in the "One Life: Martin Luther King Jr." Family Day at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery on Saturday, August 24. On the anniversary day, August 28, they will tour the “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863 and the March on Washington, 1963” exhibition in the National Museum of African American History and Culture gallery within the National Museum of American History, attend the performance of  “Historic Theater: Join the Student Sit-Ins at the Greensboro Lunch Counter,” and answer visitors’ questions after the performance.

NEA Partners on National Training Program: Our Voice, Our Youth, Our Vote
To train the next generation of activists, NEA is partnering with Black Youth Vote!, a program of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Inc., to host the ONLY youth oriented program activity during the March. Together, NEA will host a civil leadership and organizing training conference entitled: Our Voices, Our Issues, Our Politics from Thursday, August 22, to Saturday August 24.

The conference will offer training in civic leadership and social justice activism to more than 200 dedicated student leaders from around the country. For more information, please click here

Resources for Educators: Classroom Lessons about the March on Washington
NEA has compiled a list of educational resources for educators, students, and communities to learn more about the March on Washington and NEA’s robust and proud history of advocating for social justice. Resources include useful information about Dr. King’s legacy around labor rights as well as resources for teaching about the 1963 March on Washington. For more information please visit

Follow the conversation on Twitter: #dream4ed #march4change

# # #

The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez, (202) 822-7823,


Educators share their stories

50 years ago, educators from across the nation where in Washington to witness history. Here are some of their stories.

 NEA celebrates the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.