U.S. Military Activities and Civil Rights: Part 2: The Military Response to the March on Washington, 1963

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Overview

On August 28, 1963, more than 250,000 demonstrators descended upon the nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Not only was it the largest demonstration for human rights in U.S. history, but it also occasioned a rare display of unity among the various civil rights organizations. Most people learned about the march through their local civil rights and church groups. Vehicles known as "freedom buses" and "freedom trains" brought people from all regions of America to this demonstration. Over 30 special trains, and 2,000 chartered buses were used. About 250,000 people came, with over 60,000 of them being white. The event began with a rally at the Washington Monument featuring several celebrities and musicians.

The records comprising Part 2: The Military Response to the March on Washington, 1963, reveal details of the Federal Government’s plans to militarily intervene in the March on Washington (codenamed Operation "Steep Hill") in the event the march became disorderly. Army staff communications and memos tracked the plans of the March organizers throughout the summer, and the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations prepared contingency plans for cooperation with District of Columbia police for controlling the march. The records also include intelligence reports and estimates, congressional correspondence, press articles, and maps planning the route of the March and facilities needed. These records give an insight into the personalities and events at the March on Washington. In addition, there is small quantity of records relating to the plans to intervene in Alabama in 1963 over the issue of school integration.

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