On Saturday, August 24th, chartered busses from the West Coast begin the long cross-country journey to Washington. From San Francisco they head east up over Donner Pass and through the shimmering heat of the high desert, from Los Angeles they traverse the Mojave on Route 66 — the "Mother Road" of the Depression and the Dustbowl. From Portland and Seattle they begin rolling east across the dry lands. On Sunday, busses hit the long-distance highways of the mountain west, and on Monday & Tuesday bus after bus after bus departs from the states and cities of the heartland — Minneapolis and Kansas City, Milwaukee, Chicago, and St. Louis.
On Tuesday morning a large crowd gathers in Birmingham's Kelly Ingram Park where they had faced the snarling dogs and endured Bull Connor's high pressure hoses. As many as possible squeeze aboard six busses all they can afford to charter, but hundreds have to be left behind for lack of funds. Up from other freedom battlegrounds of the Deep South busses begin rolling north, from Plaquemine and New Orleans Louisiana, from the Mississippi Delta, from the embattled communities of Alabama, and from Atlanta and Southwest Georgia the busses head towards Washington.
A "Freedom Special" train pulls out of Florida, traveling up the East Coast, picking up marchers as it goes. By the time it reaches DC, it's 22 cars long. With all their money tied up in bail from mass arrests, there's no money for busses in Durham or Greensboro, North Carolina, so a caravan of 200 cars packed full of marchers moves up out of North Carolina, their lights shining north through the night.
As the hour approaches midnight, marchers begin boarding busses in Boston, Hartford, and New Haven. In the dead of night more than 40,000 protesters assemble at pickup points around New York City and then head south on 600 busses and 11 chartered trains. 85 busses depart from New Jersey and 100 from Philadelphia. From Detroit and Cleveland and Pittsburgh, from Louisville and Cincinnati, the busses roll towards Washington. Through the dark night they roll east on Route 40 and south on US-1.
In the morning hours of August 28, more than 2,000 busses, 21 special trains, 10 chartered aircraft, and uncounted autos converge on Washington. The regularly scheduled planes, trains, and busses are filled to capacity. And in DC itself — "Chocolate City," at that time the only major metropolis in America with a Black majority population — tens of thousands, young and old, step out of their front doors and head for the gathering point — the towering spire of the Washington Monument.
Copyright © Bruce Hartford
See March on
Washington for Jobs & Freedom for background & more information.
See also March on Washington 1963 for web links.
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