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The March on Washington

This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most historic moments in United States history – the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. On August 28, 1963, approximately 250,000 people participated in the march, which is considered to be one of the largest peaceful political rallies for human rights in history. Among other events, the march participants gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Many consider The Great March on Washington to be the event that encouraged the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march, the Share My Lesson team has created this collection of free lessons and classroom materials to help middle and high school educators teach their students about this historic event.

Middle school materials

Economic causes of the March on Washington
Using data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics about unemployment rates in 1963, students will determine possible economic causes for the march.

March logistics then and now
In this lesson from the Albert Shanker Institute, students will analyze the organizational and logistical tasks that needed to be accomplished to make the march possible and determine how those tasks could be completed today.

Civil rights: The March on Washington
In this recording from 60-second Civics, students learn about the March on Washington.

Who was Bayard Rustin?
In this activity, students learn about Bayard Rustin and explore why his involvement in the march is largely forgotten in American history.

“I Have a Dream”
Using Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, students learn about persuasive writing techniques.

March on Washington: The Other Leaders of the March
In this lesson, from our partner PBS NewsHour Extra, students decide if the goals of the march were adequately addressed through various speeches presented during the event.

March on Washington: Racial Equality in 2013?
This series of lessons asks students to consider if racial equality has been achieved in the 50 years since the March on Washington.

“I Have a Dream” Speech as a Visionary Text
Help your students connect to the rich imagery of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by learning the history of the speech and then illustrating some of its most famous lines.

High school materials

Heart of the matter
In this activity from the Albert Shanker Institute, students will differentiate between the popular memory of the march and what actually happened.

Leaders for today
Through careful research of the contributions and qualities of A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Norman Hill and Rachelle Horowitz, students will determine if the organizers of the march should be considered role models for today.

Dream under development
In this lesson, students compare Dr. King’s prepared version of his iconic speech with the one he actually delivered and form opinions about why he may have changed it.

Strategizing for freedom
Students research Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey and A. Philip Randolph’s strategies for advancing the African-American freedom struggle and decide which strategy was most effective.

Reading like a historian
In this video from Teaching Channel, students compare different sources to identify the true story about the March on Washington.

Making the case for equality
In this activity, students decide whether Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech or the trial closing argument of Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird makes a more persuasive case for overcoming racism.

March on Washington: A Time for Change
Use this lesson plan and interactive timeline to see the sequence of events leading up to the iconic March on Washington, who was involved in the march and what the organizers of the march hoped to achieve.