washington dc, monument, march, racismFifty years ago this summer, on a sweltering, steamy day in Washington, D.C., thousands walked the 1.6-mile route from the United States Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom called for an end to poverty as well as racial inequality; ULC ministers can appreciate how much Dr. King’s vision overlaps with our own values.


Jobs and Justice

A commitment to ending social injustice lies at the heart of our mission as ULC ministers, and we are reminded of this when recalling the purpose behind the March on Washington. At the time, most southern U.S. states still legally mandated the segregation of whites and blacks in the form of Jim Crow laws, while in the northern states racial discrimination was widely practiced in the form of job discrimination and bank lending practices, which led to segregation in housing, as well as discriminatory union practices.

But they were also confronting poverty, which remains disproportionately associated with race. The marchers “were there seeking jobs as well as justice; not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity”, said President Obama at the fiftieth anniversary observance ceremony, adding that Dr. King would have asked, “what does it profit a man…to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?” Eliminating poverty, not only through charity but also by empowering the poor, is also a major focus of the Universal Life Church’s outreach efforts.

Lingering Inequalities

Despite the many gains made, deep inequalities persist in the form of racial, sexual, and socioeconomic discrimination. The president reminded his audience that black unemployment “has remained almost twice as high as white unemployment” and that “the gap in wealth between the races has not lessened; it’s grown”. Meanwhile, media outlets are rife with reports of fresh attacks on women’s reproductive healthcare, showing that full equality for all Americans on all fronts as yet remains unrealized.

Remembering the March on Washington allows us to celebrate our gains but also encourages us to confront those problems that persist.

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