In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. made history by pulling a crowd of 250,000 for a March in Washington where he delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech. Over 30 years down the line, the Nation of Islam Leader, Louis Farrakhan, tripled this number in his Million Man March by drawing 850,000 African Americans to the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1995 to protest the social injustice being meted out to the black community.
The Nation of Islam Leader’s message was one, come out in your numbers if you are African American and you are tired of the systemic oppression of the black race in the United States. According to BlackPast, he also used the platform to rally the African-American community to unite and improve their social well-being and network.
The Million Man March was seen as a movement to revive the spirit of the African-American community so it got the support of many religious institutions and community organizations across the United States.
Those who by way of distance or illness could not join the march were asked not to show up at work and stay at home. They were also not to send their children to school in support of the protest. Farrakhan also asked the demonstrators and supporters not to make any purchases on October 16, 1995, for the American society to appreciate the contributions of Blacks to the national economy.
The Nation of Islam’s Leader was supported by key figures and civil rights activists like Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, Dick Gregory and Benjamin Chavis. The gathering was entertained by Maya Angelou, whose poetry was on the rebirth of the African American, and Stevie Wonder.
The African Americans present were asked to connect to their spiritual roots and make God the center of their life. They were also urged to take advantage of their voting rights to register and build a Black political power.
The thousands of demonstrators pledged to be behind their families, shy away from violence whether physical and verbal abuse of their spouses and children and be firm in renouncing violence against other individuals. They also pledged to stay away from drugs or alcohol and to place their focus on building black businesses while strengthening their social network and cultural institutions in the black communities.
They were encouraged to walk the pledge once they returned to their various homes and be the change maker they had promised to be. Though many of the pledges were not fully followed by the thousands of participants, there were two significant happenings the campaigners attributed to the influence of the March.
The first one was, there were over 1.5 million Black voters who registered to cast their ballot for the first time after the March. The second was, there was a significant increase in the number of black children adopted by African-American families.