The Million Man March (pictured throughout), one of the most moving and emotional moments ever in African-American history, took place on the grounds of the National Mall on this day in 1995. The symbolic importance and cultural impact of the huge gathering signified a shift in the attention on issues that plagued urban environs and minorities. The National African American Leadership Summit and the Nation of Islam worked in tandem alongside local chapters of the NAACP to make the March a reality.
At the time, African-American leaders were moved to act, when in 1994, the Republican Party gained control of Congress during President Bill Clinton’s first term in office. Feeling in some way that policy matters focused on the concerns of Blacks were lacking, the leaders of the time sought to be heard and become part of the national agenda. Much like today, unemployment and poverty disproportionately affected Blacks in comparison to poor Whites, sparking Rev. Jesse Jackson to address several issues in front of the House of Representatives.
The rate of arrests of Black men, drug use among African Americans, environmental hazards, and other societal ills were all on the table and the organizers of the March boldly declared war against the negative downturn. In addition, racial tensions in the country were high, with the highly publicized O.J. Simpson not-guilty verdict coming just two weeks before.
Consequently, Dr. Benjamin Chavis Muhammad, the national director of the March, used his background as a champion for African-American rights to connect groups with one another for the March. The Million Man March was a call for men of their respective communities to gather together and shift the tide for African Americans of either gender.
Men and leaders of all faiths and political ideologies saw the importance of banding together for the March. Further, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called October 16 “a day of atonement.”