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This Far by Faith

Journeys

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1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANINGTODAY: The Journey Continues
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
1526-1775: from AFRICA to AMERICA1776-1865: from BONDAGE to HOLY WAR1866-1945: from EMANCIPATION to JIM CROW
1946-1966: from CIVIL RIGHTS to BLACK POWER
1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANING
The Million Man March TODAY: The Journey Continues



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Timeline: 1967-TODAY View Detailed Timeline
TODAY: The Journey Continues
TODAY: The Journey Continues



1967-TODAY: from CRISIS, A SEARCH FOR MEANING
The Million Man March



"And as we leave this place, let us be resolved to go home to work out this atonement and make our communities a decent, whole, and safe place to live. And oh, Allah, we beg your blessings on all who participate...let us not be conformed to this world, but let us go home transformed by the renewing of our minds and let the idea of atonement ring throughout America, that America may see that the slave has come up with power." --Minister Louis Farrakhan, in his speach at the Million Man March (October 16, 1995)


It had been a decade of increasing drug violence, rising rates of single motherhood, and increasing rates of black men in prison.


Crowd gathered for the Million Man March.

Crowd gathered for the Million Man March.


Minister Louis Farrakhan, head of the resurrected Nation of Islam, called for a Million Man March. The march, billed as a "holy day of atonement and reconciliation" for African American men, took place on Washington's Mall on October 16, 1995. Much controversy surrounded it during the planning stage, but those who attended described their experience as meaningful, and observers suggest that the march has led to many positive outcomes.

The controversy surrounded the principal organizer, Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam. Farrakhan asked black women to stay home and let the men handle their own affairs. Some African American women were supportive, while others perceived their exclusion as symbolic of the "second class" role assigned to Islamic women.

Farrakhan had come under criticism for calling Jews "financial bloodsuckers" who practiced a "gutter religion." Other intemperate remarks infuriated Catholics, gays, feminists, and whites in general. The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich predicted that the Million Man March "will polarize us and drive us apart." Still, Minister Farrakhan had claimed the mantle once worn by Malcolm X, and he wore it well. He formed a coalition of groups in support. Churches, fraternities, schools, recovery groups, and neighborhoods sent buses, and, on the anointed day, nearly a million black men showed up at the nation's Capitol. Themes of self-help and self-respect were struck constantly throughout the day. The crowd fell silent as Farrakhan called upon them to pledge to improve their lives and the lives of their wives and children. They were encouraged to go back home and "build your own communities, avoid drugs and violence, register to vote, build black political power, and invest in black businesses."

The march drew groups from churches of all denominations, social organizations, and schools. Clayton Pasley, a twenty-four year old pastor from St. Louis, described the atmosphere as "strong - young black men being empowered with other black men. It's beautiful." The speakers included Farrakhan, civil rights veterans Benjamin Chavis, Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, Dick Gregory, poet Maya Angelou, and singer Stevie Wonder.

On the one-year anniversary of the March, Alvertis Simmons, a community activist in Denver, described how his local Million Man March organization returned home, then went door-to-door in black neighborhoods to investigate crimes and decrease community violence. They registered over 500 voters and visited public schools to encourage self-respect among black teens. Farrakhan declared that the march should take credit for the 7% drop in the murder rate the following year. Armstrong Williams, a syndicated talk show host, described talking with men who, after attending the march, started paying child support, spending more time with their children, and returning to the church. Although a national movement failed to materialize, the most important contribution of the Million Man March may have been personal.

"The most powerful aspect of it," said Ron Walter of the University of Maryland during a discussion of the march's impact, "has been really the individual expressions…of people…who stood there in camaraderie with their brothers, and those people who committed themselves to a regeneration of the spirit of the black community. That was a very powerful thing."




Did You Know?



Prathia Hall supported the March.
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There was a controversy over the number of people who participated in the March.
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