March on Washington

UC Riverside scholars, staff analyze historic demonstration, Dr. King’s “dream” speech, equality and justice for African Americans today

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — As the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom nears, these scholars and staff at the University of California, Riverside are available to discuss the significance of the Aug. 28, 1963 rally, one of the largest of the Civil Rights Movement; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech; and their views on race, justice and equality today.

V.P. Franklin

V.P. Franklin

V.P. Franklin, distinguished professor of history and education

Professor Franklin specializes in African American history and the history of education in the U.S., particularly as it relates to African Americans. He teaches classes on the Civil Rights Movement, and recently has had his students examine the role of youth in the movement, from Birmingham to California. He is the editor of The Journal of African American History, which was founded in 1916 by Carter G. Woodson as The Journal of Negro History.

About the March on Washington he says:

“Dorothy Height, Pauli Murray, and many other African American women complained bitterly and publicly before and after Aug. 28, 1963, about the absence of a woman speaker on the platform at the March on Washington.  African Americans before and after this commemorative march will complain bitterly if those speaking fail to express publicly their solidarity with their brothers and sisters in the Caribbean Community who are pursuing ‘reparations as a development strategy’ by establishing the  CARICOM Reparations Commission to formulate reparations demands. One of the commission’s options is create a reparations superfund to distribute funds to development groups and projects similar to the one proposed to deal with problems facing young black males and their families in the United States. Sir Hilary M. Beckles in his recent book Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Caribbean Slavery and Native Genocide (2013) argues that the July 2013 CARICOM decision means that ‘the Caribbean nations have assumed the vanguard duty to the twenty-first century global reparations movement.’ The leaders of the 2013 March on Washington will surely come to regret not stating their firm support for the call for a reparations superfund in the United States and common cause with CARICOM nations and “the twenty-first century global reparations movement.”

Additional information:

Vorris Nunley

Vorris Nunley

Vorris Nunley, associate professor of English

Professor Nunley specializes in rhetoric, particularly the rhetoric of African American hush harbors (spheres such as beauty shops, barbershops and women’s clubs where congregants could speak freely and obtain knowledge useful in everyday life). He can speak about Dr. King’s speech and why it has become such a significant piece of oratory in American history.

In a January 2013 article in the Los Angeles Review of Books, he had this to say about Dr. King’s “dream” speech (

“Apparently, immediately after delivering one of the most rhetorically brilliant, oratorically moving, politically significant speeches in American history — the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., effectively died. Died in August 1963, that is, not in April 1968; in celebrations, commemorations, and ceremonies, commercials, speeches, and public gatherings, the ‘I Have a Dream’ King is frozen in time — his later politics dulled of its edginess, stripped of its demand for introspection on the part of both the oppressor and the oppressed. A more progressive Dr. King, the rhetorically and politically more prickly, complicated, beyond ‘I Have a Dream’ King, the Dr. King who from 1963 through 1968 would discomfort Americans — even African Americans — has been disappeared. Erased. Allowed to dissipate in the winds of historical nostalgia for a more domesticated, compliant, more easily consumable Dr. King. A dreaming King. A Dr. King more comfortable for the American imagination.

“’I Have a Dream’ deserves its iconic status. The trope of the dream evokes the rhetorical energy of potential, possibility, and progress, infusing the idea of America (indeed America is less a place than an idea) that continues to animate political and cultural activism. It is not by accident then, that a policy to enable thousands of the children of immigrants to obtain residency status is called ‘the Dream Act.’ It was not a rhetorically random choice that then presidential candidate Barack Obama juiced the engine of his first campaign for president on the nectar of American hope and change. Dreaming is one of the bases that constitute the American DNA, that enables the hope and change that Dr. King clearly embodied.

“But the other Dr. King requires us to embrace two bases of the American DNA many Americans deny and overlook: struggle and discomfort. …”

Additional information:

Kenneth Simons

Kenneth Simons

Kenneth Simons, director of African Student Programs
(951) 827-5750

Ken Simons has created, coordinated and developed hundreds of educational and cultural events at UC Riverside that highlight African and African-American history, legacy, traditions, culture, customs and rituals. These events enhance the student life experience and educate the campus and surrounding communities about the African Diaspora.

One hundred and fifty years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech remains timeless and relevant, and serves as a barometer to gauge the moral or social justice compass that many may say points to the Southern Cross and not toward the Northern Star. The saga of equality and justice for African Americans in the U.S. will continue to be “work in progress.” The legacy of this struggle was, is, and will historically be recorded as epic moments in the annals of U.S. history. For example, on Feb, 7 2013, after 148 years, the state of Mississippi finally officially ratified the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which bans slavery. Equally significant, in a 5-4 decision on June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“We Have a Dream — A luta continua (The struggle continues)!”

Additional information:

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Tel: (951) 827-7847
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