THE MARCH is the creative idea of Alan Marshall. In the Fall of 2010, Alan’s appreciation of African American history and his passion for opera inspired him to create an artistic vehicle for African American opera singers. Alan also had a strong desire to create an opera that would enlighten audiences about the depth and complexity of the African American experience.
Alan’s growing relationships with African American opera singers exposed him to their frustration about the lack of roles that could make full use of their talent. He heard stories about singers avoiding operatic roles because they considered them demeaning to them as African Americans.
Alan soon began pondering what would be a powerful story to tell. It was not long before he settled on an episode in the Civil Rights Movement. He chose the March on Washington as his subject because all of the major civil rights leaders were involved in its planning. He also felt like it would be exciting to examine the perspective of the Kennedy Administration. Finally, the March on Washington is considered by many historians as the emotional and spiritual pinnacle of the civil rights movement prior to the rise of the Black Power and anti-war movements.
Alan has researched extensively for this opera. He uses as many as twelve books per scene to give him every possible perspective of the setting, circumstances and characters. Some of his most rewarding research and writing involved the Oval Office scene where he spent months exploring the hearts and minds of Southern politicians who opposed the March on Washington and the civil rights bill.
Despite this exhaustive research, THE MARCH is not a documentary. It is an opera that uses the actual march and the surrounding historical period as a backdrop. THE MARCH is an opera about the personal stories of individuals, known and previously obscure, who came together on a hot, sunny day in August of 1963 and made history.
THE MARCH is an opera that is long overdue. Its creators are working tirelessly to bring to the operatic stage a creation that will serve art, history and humanity.
What’s in THE MARCH?
- A behind the scenes perspective of the personalities and rivalries of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement as they planned The March on Washington.
- Stories of individuals who made personal sacrifices to support and attend The March on Washington.
- The political repercussions of The March on Washington and the Civil Rights Movement that were felt from the halls of Congress to the Oval Office.
- A staging of the greatest civil rights demonstration in American history.
History of The March on Washington, August 28, 1963
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (or “The Great March on Washington,” as styled in a sound recording released after the event) was a large political rally in support of civil and economic rights for African Americans that took place in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, August 28, 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech advocating racial harmony at the Lincoln Memorial during the march.
The march was organized by a group of civil rights, labor, and religious organizations, under the theme “jobs, and freedom.” Estimates of the number of participants varied from 200,000 (police) to over 300,000 (leaders of the march). Observers estimated that 75–80% of the marchers were black and the rest were white and other minorities.
The march is widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).
The march was initiated by A. Philip Randolph, the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, president of the Negro American Labor Council, and vice president of the AFL-CIO. Randolph had planned a similar march in 1941. The threat of the earlier march had convinced President Roosevelt to establish theCommittee on Fair Employment Practice and ban discriminatory hiring in the defense industry.
The 1963 march was an important part of the rapidly expanding Civil Rights Movement. It also marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln.
In the political sense, the march was organized by a coalition of organizations and their leaders including: Randolph who was chosen as the titular head of the march, James Farmer (president of the Congress of Racial Equality), John Lewis (president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee), Martin Luther King, Jr. (president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference), Roy Wilkins (president of the NAACP), Whitney Young (president of the National Urban League).
The mobilization and logistics of the actual march itself was administered by deputy director Bayard Rustin, a civil rights veteran and organizer of the 1947Journey of Reconciliation, the first of the Freedom Rides to test the Supreme Court ruling that banned racial discrimination in interstate travel. Rustin was a long-time associate of both Randolph and Dr. King. With Randolph concentrating on building the march’s political coalition, Rustin built and led the team of activists and organizers who publicized the march and recruited the marchers, coordinated the buses and trains, provided the marshals, and set up and administered all of the logistic details of a mass march in the nation’s capital.
The march was not universally supported among African Americans. Some civil rights activists were concerned that it might turn violent, which could undermine pending legislation and damage the international image of the movement. The march was condemned by Malcolm X, spokesperson for the Nation of Islam, who termed it the “farce on Washington”.
March organizers themselves disagreed over the purpose of the march. The NAACP and Urban League saw it as a gesture of support for a civil rights bill that had been introduced by the Kennedy Administration. Randolph, King, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) saw it as a way of raising both civil rights and economic issues to national attention beyond the Kennedy bill. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) saw it as a way of challenging and condemning the Kennedy administration’s inaction and lack of support for civil rights for African Americans.
On August 28, more than 2,000 buses, 21 special trains, 10 chartered airliners, and uncounted cars converged on Washington. All regularly scheduled planes, trains, and buses were also filled to capacity.
The march began at the Washington Monument and ended at the Lincoln Memorial with a program of music and speakers. The march failed to start on time because its leaders were meeting with members of Congress. To the leaders’ surprise, the assembled group began to march from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial without them.
The 1963 March also spurred anniversary marches that occur every five years, with the 20th and 25th being some of the most well known. The 25th Anniversary theme was “We Still have a Dream…Jobs*Peace*Freedom.”
Source: Wikipedia and Additional Info