The people at the March on Washington certainly weren’t dreaming and were at the start of something huge. That led to the civil rights laws of the 1960s and they definitely had their eyes on the prize and knew exactly why they were there. Hollywood and the entertainment, especially the progressive entertainment community, were critical in the civil rights movement and the March on Washington. Because they could bring attention to their activism, because of their followers and that they also had the media behind them. Print, radio and TV. The media almost had to cover these events and cover what the speakers and activists were saying and doing here.
The only thing that these marchers and activists were fighting for was for individual freedom and equal rights for all Americans. Including African-Americans. That it was immoral for any American to be denied access in this great country simply because of our race, ethnicity, or gender. That all Americans were entitled to not just civil rights, but equal rights and an opportunity to succeed in this country. And then be allowed to fail and succeed on our own based on our own merit. Not because of how our nose is shaped, or our hair, name, complexion, or any other racial, or ethnic features that we have as individuals.
People like to point back to some event or time or year, when America started changing and became the diverse melting pot that we are now with all sorts of different ethnic and racial groups now prevalent with a real shot at succeeding in America. But where we became a cultural melting pot where Americans were expected to all live the same way and want the same things. Where women were no longer expected to stay at home and where gays were no longer expected to lock themselves in the closet and where African-Americans were no longer expected to serve as servants to Caucasian families and serve them in public.
1963 for me at least is the end of the 1950s. America was moving forward and no longer moving back. We were moving past the Leave it to Beaver culturally and religiously conservative world. Not just African-Americans who were standing up for their rights, but women of all races and ethnicities as well. Baby Boomers were going to and graduating from college and wanted to a New America and new way of life for themselves. Where they could seek freedom for themselves and live their own ways. And no longer felt the need to live the lifestyles of their parents and grandparents. But decide for themselves, especially women if they were going to get married, go to work, have kids or not. And in many cases decided to enter the workforce. As well as get married and have kids.
When Bob Dylan sings Time are a Changin, he’s singing that at the perfect time and perfect place. Times were changing in 1963 and I believe the March on Washington was kind of like that Super Bowl moment that kicked that off. The 1964 Civil Rights Law, is passed less than a year later. And the civil rights movement just grew from that after that with the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This 1950s American shell that we were living in up till this point was finally cracking. And we were becoming a country that was no longer just for Southern Anglo-Saxon Protestant men. But a country that was truly a melting pot where every American was going to be treated equally under law.
The Eyes on a Prize, at least for me, was an America that worked for all Americans. Were we no longer resembled Apartheid South Africa. Where the Native-Africans and their Caucasian rulers were separated. But instead would become a country where race, ethnicity and gender, wouldn’t become factors in whether Americans would succeed or not. But instead were how we were born and physically looked, but didn’t determine our success in life. But instead our success would be determined by what we brought to the table as individuals. And not as members of groups. The 1963 March on Washington wasn’t the start of the American civil rights movement, or the conclusion. But the place where everything started coming together.