FROM TC: Fifty years ago today, more than 250,000 people converged on the National Mall for the March on Washington. It became not just the largest political demonstration to date in American history, but also the beginning of a new era, defined by the phrase "I have a dream." Time Magazine has created a special microsite for the occasion called "One Dream". Here are a few excerpts related to the role that artists played in this historic event:  

  • FUNDRAISING: In the weeks before the March on Washington, celebrities and artists came together at fundraisers across the country to help raise cash. One event took place in Birmingham, Ala., a city that had been the scene of violent clashes between local police and young protesters in May. The Salute to Freedom concert was held at Miles College and featured appearances by Martin Luther King Jr., Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Johnny Mathis, James Baldwin and other stars of politics and pop culture. Proceeds from the show helped cover transportation costs for Alabamans planning to go to Washington.
  • PERFORMING: "When we were going to the March on Washington, we didn't know whether it was going to be violent, and we didn't know if it was going to be a place where fear pervaded. The reality was, it was quite the opposite. Joyful doesn't really describe it for me. It was like the physicalization of love. It was ecstatic perhaps, but it was not giddy and silly or 'Let's have a good time.' It was a far deeper kind of joy. It went beyond joy. It was hard to describe, but it was the antithesis of fear, and it propelled us all into another channel in our lives." --singer/songwriter Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary, who were invited by Harry Belafonte to sing at the March on Washington, where the group performed its covers of "If I Had a Hammer" and "Blowin' in the Wind".

Museums retrace the March on Washington, 50 years later

Brett Zongker, The Associated Press, 8/24/13

Numerous exhibits and programs in the nation's capital allow visitors to retrace the historic steps of the 1963 March on Washington 50 years later...[and] learn about the march, the nation's conflict over civil rights and the tumult leading up to the Rev. King's speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

  • At the Newseum, curators focused on the unique role of students in helping to lead the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. The Newseum also is launching a 3-year changing exhibit called "Civil Rights at 50," which will be updated each year with key milestones in the civil rights movement.
  • [At the] National Museum of American History, the "Changing America" gallery explores the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, along with the March on Washington 100 years later. The museum will host short performances near its display of part of the Greensboro, N.C. lunch counter, allowing visitors to take part in a training session for a sit-in based on a 1960s manual.
  • [At the] National Portrait Gallery, the new exhibit "One Life: Martin Luther King Jr." includes historic photographs, prints, paintings and memorabilia showing King's rise to prominence as a civil rights leader in the South, leading up to his memorable speech in Washington.
  • The African American Civil War Museum has organized a tour of Washington's Civil War and Civil Rights sites to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war and the 50th anniversary of the march. It includes a tour of U Street, once known as the "Black Broadway," and a stop at the new Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial.
  • [At the] Library of Congress, the new exhibit "A Day Like No Other: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington" opens Aug. 28 featuring 42 black-and-white images by photojournalists and people who participated in the march.
  • [At the] National Museum of Women in the Arts, the exhibit "American People, Black Light: Faith Ringgold's Paintings of the 1960s" explores this prominent black artist's portrayal of racial inequality in the 1960s.

A global community celebration today to "Dance the Dream"

Roger Lee,'s Dance Journal, 7/29/13

"Dance The Dream" is a part of THE DREAM @ 50, a world-wide celebration of the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech. On August 28, 2013, a series of dance flash mobs will take place in public squares of cities, towns, and villages around the globe. There are dance flash mobs currently registered in Atlanta, Boston, Cape Town (South Africa), Chicago, London, Los Angeles, Miami, New South Wales, New York, Paris, Singapore, and Washington D.C. The dance flash mobs will be run by professional choreographers from around the globe. This year's roster includes Peter London of the Peter London Global Dance Company for Miami, Jenna Lee of the English National Ballet for London, Eartha Robinson of the Debbie Allen Dance Academy for Los Angeles, Kevin Iega Jeff of the Deeply Rooted Dance Theater for Chicago, Gregory Maqoma of the Vuyani Dance Theatre for Cape Town, Mourad Merzouki of Compagnie Kafig for Paris, Aubrey Lynch of the Harlem School of the Arts for New York, and Stephen Page of the Bangarra Dance Theatre for New South Wales.


Commentary: MLK and the musical stuff of his Dream

Fred Plotkin, WQXR Radio's blog Operavore, 8/27/13

When I think of how there can be music in words, few quotations seem to be more musical, and more resonant, than what Dr. King said that day:

"Now, I say to you today my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

He expressed similar ideas in several talks in the weeks leading up to speech. With each rendering, he honed and refined, but did not fully take ownership of the words of his dream until Washington.... He had not yet found the music. Somewhere, just as opera achieves greatness when words and music merge to create something new, Dr. King's beliefs became more stirring when he found the music and rhythms in what he was trying to say. As I have described elsewhere, Dr. King loved gospel music. It seems that, at a certain point, as he tried to fashion the speech for which he became legendary, he discussed with his friend, the mighty gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, how he came to his ideas.  Clarence B. Jones, adviser and former speechwriter for King, recounts Mahalia Jackson's key contribution to that speech. [Watch an interview with Jones here.] Dr. King knew something about opera, even if he probably did not have time in his busy life to attend it much, if at all. His future wife, Coretta Scott, studied opera singing in Boston and the young reverend moved there to be near her. Surely Coretta explained to him the magic of opera and that it too can be a vehicle for dreams.


Commentary: Why you won't see or hear the whole 'I have a dream' speech

Attorney Josh Schiller, The Washington Post Opinion page, 8/27/13

In coverage of its anniversary, the entirety of King's address will rarely be reprinted, if at all, nor will viewers see footage of his speech delivered in full. A few months after King delivered the speech, he sent a copy to the U.S. Copyright office and listed the remarks as a "work not reproduced for sale." He subsequently sued to enjoin two publishers from distributing phonographic reproductions of the address.... A court ruled that, although King had addressed a large audience in an unrestricted public forum, reproduction without authorization was an infringement of King's copyright. Performance of the speech, like the performance of a song or play in a public space, did not create a general waiver of King's right to limit reproduction under the 1909 Copyright Act. Since 1963, King and, posthumously, his estate have strictly enforced control over use of that speech and King's likeness. A few years ago, the estate received more than $700,000 from the nonprofit foundation that created and built the monument to King on the Mall in order to use his words and image. The only legal way to reproduce King's work -- at least until it enters the public domain in 2038 -- is to pay for a licensing fee, rates for which vary. (Individuals visiting the King Center can buy a recording of the "I have a dream" speech for $20. Licenses for media outlets run into the thousands.)  As an attorney, I believe in respect for the law and observing copyright restrictions. But when it comes to observing the anniversary of such a public moment, one hopes that fair use will allow current generations to appreciate what happened 50 years ago this week and why it was such a moment in American history.

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