By Imara Jones
In less than a week, the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom will take place on the same site as it did in 1963. The event, coordinated by the National Action Network and The King Center in coalition with an array of organizations, will seek to commemorate and rekindle the original gathering’s aims.
Held in the shadow of the Lincoln Memorial, at the geographic center of a capital laid out with slave labor, the original 200,000-strong demonstration is famous for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s soaring address, in which he laid out a vision of social justice and racial equality. But one of the march’s original goals had a distinctly economic ring to it: fair jobs. Four out of the 10 demands march organizers listed were explicitly economic, and the announcement calling marchers to Washington cited “economic deprivation” as the impetus. Fifty years on, many of the same critical economic challenges the organizers targeted remain unmet.
In fact, the African American unemployment rate is higher now than in 1960: roughly 13 percent in 2013 vs. 8 percent in 1963. Moreover, as Robert Fairlie and William Sundstrom laid out in the The American Economic Review , the employment gap between blacks and whites widened in the 1960s and has never closed.
These data point to the fact that addressing racial inequality without a steady unwinding of economic injustice hardens and expands white supremacy. The link between racial and economic injustice was well known to the 1963 march’s organizers: A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.
Read More Still Marching for Jobs – COLORLINES.