Who Sang at the March on Washington?

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, held on August 28, 1963, was a pivotal event in the American Civil Rights Movement. It brought together hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life to advocate for racial equality and economic justice. The march was not only characterized by powerful speeches and passionate activism but also by the music that echoed throughout the National Mall. Women musicians played a significant role in shaping the musical landscape of the march, delivering moving performances that left a lasting impact on the attendees.

Mahalia Jackson: The Queen of Gospel

Mahalia Jackson, renowned as the Queen of Gospel, was one of the prominent musicians who performed at the March on Washington. Known for her powerful and soul-stirring voice, Jackson captivated the audience with her performances. She sang heartfelt selections including “How I Got Over” and “I’ve Been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned.” Her contributions to the march were not limited to her musical performances; she also interacted with speakers and provided dynamic cultural grounding for the event.

Marian Anderson: Breaking Color Lines

Marian Anderson, a celebrated contralto singer, also graced the stage at the march. Anderson had already made history in 1939 when she delivered a defiant open-air performance at the Lincoln Memorial after being denied the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall due to racial discrimination. At the march, she performed the spiritual song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands.” Her powerful voice resonated with the crowd and added to the significance of the event.

Joan Baez: Folk Singer and Activist

Joan Baez, an influential folk singer and activist, played a vital role in the music of the march. At just 22 years old, Baez led the crowd in singing the iconic civil rights anthem, “We Shall Overcome.” She also performed “Oh Freedom,” a song that encapsulated the struggle for freedom and equality. Baez’s passionate performances and commitment to social justice made a lasting impression on the attendees.

Bob Dylan: Singer-Songwriter and Voice of Protest

Bob Dylan, a renowned singer-songwriter known for his thought-provoking lyrics, made his mark on the march with two performances. He joined Joan Baez in singing “When the Ship Comes In,” a song that captured the hope for a brighter future. Dylan also performed “Only A Pawn In Their Game,” a powerful song about the murder of civil rights activist Medgar Evers. His evocative performances reflected the spirit of protest and the fight against injustice.

Peter, Paul and Mary: Voices of the Folk Movement

The folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary also lent their voices to the March on Washington. They performed two iconic songs that became synonymous with the civil rights movement: “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “If I Had a Hammer.” Their harmonies and melodic renditions resonated with the crowd, emphasizing the unity and shared aspirations of the movement.

Odetta: The Voice of the Civil Rights Movement

Odetta, an American folk singer often referred to as the Voice of the Civil Rights Movement, delivered a captivating performance at the march. She sang “I’m On My Way,” a song that symbolized the journey towards freedom and equality. Odetta’s powerful voice and her dedication to civil rights causes made her an important figure in the musical landscape of the march.

The Freedom Singers: Harmony and Activism

Another notable musical group that performed at the march was the Freedom Singers, a six-member vocal group. They passionately sang “We Shall Overcome,” the anthem of the civil rights movement, along with other artists. Their harmonies and collective voices brought a sense of unity and determination to the event.

The performances by these women and other musicians at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom added an extra dimension to the historic event. Their songs inspired hope, galvanized the crowd, and became enduring symbols of the fight for racial equality. Through their music, these women musicians made their voices heard and left an indelible mark on the civil rights movement.

Sources:

  1. Smithsonian American Women’s History. “Women Musicians Shined at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” Retrieved from https://womenshistory.si.edu/blog/women-musicians-shined-1963-march-washington-jobs-and-freedom
  2. The New Yorker. “Dream Songs: The Music of the March on Washington.” Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/dream-songs-the-music-of-the-march-on-washington
  3. NPR. “Looking Back on the Music That Accompanied the March on Washington 60 Years Ago.” Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2023/08/26/1196170868/looking-back-on-the-music-that-accompanied-the-march-on-washington-60-years-ago

FAQs

Which musicians performed at the March on Washington?

Several notable musicians performed at the March on Washington, including Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Odetta, and the Freedom Singers.

What songs did Mahalia Jackson sing at the march?

Mahalia Jackson, known as the Queen of Gospel, sang powerful selections at the March on Washington, including “How I Got Over” and “I’ve Been ‘Buked and I’ve Been Scorned.”

Which song did Marian Anderson perform?

Marian Anderson performed the spiritual song “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” at the march.

What songs did Joan Baez perform at the March on Washington?

Joan Baez led the crowd in singing the iconic civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” and also performed “Oh Freedom” at the march.

Which songs did Bob Dylan perform?

Bob Dylan performed two songs at the march. He sang “When the Ship Comes In” with Joan Baez and performed “Only A Pawn In Their Game,” a song about the murder of Medgar Evers.

What songs did Peter, Paul, and Mary sing at the march?

The folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary sang “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “If I Had a Hammer” at the March on Washington.

What song did Odetta perform?

Odetta, an American folk singer, performed “I’m On My Way” at the march.

What role did the Freedom Singers play in the march?

The Freedom Singers, a six-member vocal group, sang “We Shall Overcome” along with other artists, adding their powerful voices to the event.