August 28 is the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. There’s a huge rally down at the Lincoln Memorial today and media coverage has been ramping up in preparation. One of the complaints we’ve gotten about that coverage is that it has oddly avoided mention of the religious component of the original march and of continued civil rights efforts. And that has been missing from some coverage.
But let’s look at some of the coverage that did cover that angle, and covered it well. First up is (friend of the blog) Hamil Harris’ piece in the Washington Post headlined “Civil Rights leaders lift up prayers marking March on Washington.”
I stole this picture from Harris’ twitter feed. He said of it that William Allison,92, came to the march with same sign in 1963.
The story is full of great quotes, including:
Rev. Kendrick E. Curry, pastor of the Pennsylvania Avenue Baptist Church, told the crowd of several hundreds that the “prayer and praise service grounds the 50th anniversary march so that it can become transformative.”
“ If we simply gather without the very rooting that the original march had, and the spirit that King had, then we are forever off course and out of order,” Curry said.
Rev. Barbara Williams Skinner, co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network and a spiritual advisor to President Obama, gave the closing charge for the evening. She she said that it was important to remember that march began in a sanctuary.
“It suggests that prayer and worship was behind the civil rights movement,” Skinner said in an interview. “It was then and it is now. Without the power of God we won’t get anywhere, we won’t have voting rights… we won’t have anything that we are really seeking.”
Frequently reporters don’t include such religious language in stories about this and other mass efforts, even though people allude to and specifically reference their religious motivation. Kudos for simply reporting some of these powerful quotes.
While we’re looking at Post coverage, here’s an interesting essay by one of the original reporters who covered the march. It’s about how the paper was trying to get a story about some type of problem breaking out at the march. By focusing on that, it missed the major news of the day — the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. But I couldn’t help but think it’s also about how much difficulty many media outlets continue to have about covering a march. Part of that is cultural — the coverage of early Tea Party protests was so tonally off as to be offensive — particularly the hungry efforts to find “problems” at the march. You didn’t see similar efforts at ideological protests from cultural bedfellows, such as the Colbert/Stewart rallies. But you can still sense the confusion and misguided efforts at covering massive annual pro-life marches. Perhaps the essay should be required reading in newsrooms. A snippet:
We were poised and ready for a riot, for trouble, for unexpected events — but not for history to be made.
My favorite religion news angle on the March anniversary events comes from Religion News Service. Adelle M. Banks and Corrie Raye Mitchell interviewed tons of participants in the march and Banks and Sally Morrow compiled photos and videos to make a fantastic multi-media presentation. It’s fun to just wander through the package, with interviews of:
- Don Cash
- Dorothy Cotton
- The Rev. Eugene Pickett
- Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch
- Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.)
- The Rev. James McLinden
- The Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell
- The Rev. Robert Graetz
- Glen Stassen
- Myrlie Evers
You can watch the “I Have a Dream” speech and you can click through a photo slideshow of the day’s events. Just a fantastic and educational package. Kudos to the team who put it together.