On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Washington, DC to draw attention to inequalities faced by Black Americans. As the nation reeled from violent acts perpetrated on civil rights activists in Birmingham, Ala., civil rights leaders A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. chose to fuse their marches — Randolph’s and Rustin’s for jobs, King’s for freedom — into a massive, singular protest. Thus, The March On Washington For Jobs And Freedom, one of the most momentous civil rights gatherings in American history, was launched, culminating in Dr. King’s classic speech which he unforgettably (and extemporaneously) delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial: “I Have A Dream.” Available for the first time as a stand-alone single on global streaming platforms, listen to “I Have A Dream” HERE. Listen to the full album, The Great March On Washington, HERE.
Motown Records recorded the key speeches and then, adding singer Liz Lands’ studio performance of “We Shall Overcome,” swiftly released a full album that fall. The company’s striking, close mic’d sound was a more accurate capture of the event than any news report of the day. As TIME proclaimed, “Martin Luther King Jr. and Motown saved the sound of the civil rights movement.” UMe’s work to preserve and archive the audio from that historic day assures that generations of people from every walk of life around the world have been inspired to work for freedom and justice forcefully and peacefully.
In honor of the anniversary of The Great March On Washington, and its enduring legacy as one of the world’s greatest examples of peaceful mass protest to champion fundamental freedoms for those who routinely experience cruelty and injustice at the hands of wrongful institutions and individuals, Motown and UMe have developed new digital initiatives. These efforts make newly accessible the sounds of a day that is vital to ensuring that America fulfills its promise and that the uplifting messages delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial nearly 60 years ago can inspire those taking to the streets today for the purpose of nonviolent action as they become part of the proud legacy of the original march.
One of the core components of this year’s campaign will be recreating the energy of that great day through carefully sequenced playlists and digital activations, including interactive timelines, shareable social cards and ongoing support for the work that the late Congressman John Lewis, then a student activist and the youngest speaker at the march, spent a lifetime pursuing.
Earlier this year and coinciding with the first-ever digital release of The Great March On Washington album on Motown, TIME and executive producer Viola Davis invited the public to step back into history with THE MARCH – a groundbreaking, immersive Virtual Reality museum exhibit that recreated The March On Washington and allowed visitors to witness firsthand the “I Have A Dream” speech, utilizing original audio from Motown. TIME said, “King’s clarion voice carries without the distracting echo picked up by inferior attempts to capture it. Spectators on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial chime in audibly as King proceeds…making listeners feel as if they’re 10 ft. from the podium.”
Now, Motown and UMe are proud to celebrate of the 57th anniversary of The Great March On Washington, with the following:
- Long-unseen footage of Coretta Scott King. Long-unseen footage of Dr. King’s widow, civil-rights activist Coretta Scott King, during an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, during which she movingly introduces excerpts from her late husband’s oratory — footage that is now officially available here through digital platforms worldwide for the first time since its original airing in 1970.
- Exclusive “March On Washington” Playlist. March On Washington playlist will feature tracks by seminal Black creators like Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Kendrick Lamar.
- Additionally, UMG unveiled USE YOUR VOICE, a digital campaign across UMG’s U.S. ecosystem to increase voter participation and civic engagement created with the Task Force for Meaningful Change (TFMC). The campaign launched on August 20th, marking 75 days before the 2020 presidential election and is designed to equip UMG employees, artists, partners and fans with the information, resources and digital tools needed to help get out the vote.
USE YOUR VOICE kicked off with the #HourOfAction initiative when U.S. employees were asked to pause from their workday and take an hour to concentrate on the election and take action. The #HourOfAction included a virtual canvassing event powered by over 150 employees that reached over 200,000 eligible voters across the country.
The hashtag, #UseYourVoice, will capture and amplify conversations around voting and activism of all kinds through November 3rd. With so many now exercising their constitutional rights, this hashtag opens up the possibility to discover shared visions or new opportunities to support, discover and embrace history as it unfolds in plain view.
“The tradition for preservation and distribution continues as Motown and UMe create ways for digital generations to enhance their journey,” commented Katina Bynum, EVP, East Coast Labels, Urban, UMe.
Bynum continued, “The Ed Sullivan Show clip of Coretta Scott King provides an early glimpse of the power of a woman’s voice. The #USEYOURVOICE hashtag encourages inclusion and action. The March On Washington playlist links the past and the present, just as today’s demonstrators carry on the work of yesteryear’s civil rights leaders and activists.”
Today, Dr. King’s plea for racial tolerance and unity — as well as similarly captivating speeches by a number of other civil-rights luminaries — ring ever truer in light of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and other Black Americans. These orations have continued to inspire generations ever since, underscored by the planned March On Washington 2020 that will be held on the 57th anniversary of the original march.
To experience this year’s Motown/UMe tribute to The Great March On Washington, please visit:
- Available HERE is shareable video from The Great March On Washington featuring a recording of future Congressman John Lewis, who was then a 23-year-old student activist; this historic snippet provides an early sense of John Lewis’ great passion and commitment.
- Coretta Scott King on The Ed Sullivan Show, originally aired on March 22, 1970. Watch HERE.
- The Great March On Washington speeches and music performances were beautifully recorded in 1963, then engineered and released by Motown Records as a complete album. Stream or purchase The Great March On Washington HERE. The single for Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is available HERE.
- The #USE YOUR VOICE conversation takes place HERE.
- Featuring artists from past and present, The March On Washington playlist honors the anniversary of this momentous protest. Listen HERE.
- Ethiopia Habtemariam, President of Motown Records and Executive Vice President of Capitol Records, spoke with Elvis Mitchell – host of KCRW’s “The Treatment” – about what Dr. King’s speeches mean to her. View their conversation HERE.