Black Americans, 1963–1973

August 15, 1973

Report Outline
Racial Assessment of Past Decade
Changing Tenor of the Negro Protest
Expansion of the Black Middle Class
Special Focus

Racial Assessment of Past Decade

Tenth Anniversary of the March on Washington

Ten years ago, on Aug. 28, 1963, a quarter of a million petitioners marched on the nation's capital to demand equity and justice for black Americans. It was a day of national unity, when persons of all races, faiths and ethnic origins stood together at the Lincoln Memorial and heard Martin Luther King Jr. proclaim his dream “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ “It was possible at the time to believe that fulfillment of the dream would not be long in coming. But the peak of hope and unity achieved at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was not destined to become a permanent plateau for the civil rights movement.

Today the country seems eons removed—not merely a decade—from the euphoria, harmony and sense of common purpose which made the March on Washington possible. The advancement of black civil rights is no longer considered the national priority it was in the early and mid-1960s. Black leaders have compared the present atmosphere to the post-Reconstruction era when the splendid promises and soaring expectations of emancipation were terminated by the terror and repression that followed the departure of federal troops from the South. “Once again the nation seems weary of the struggle,” said Vernon Jordan Jr., executive director of the National Urban League. “There is pervasive evidence that the Second Reconstruction is coming to an end.”

The new Reconstruction, begun in the 1950s and accelerated during the presidencies of John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, had a remarkable record of legislative and legal achievement. Three major civil rights laws were enacted within five years: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968. The legal structure of racial discrimination in the South was destroyed and a new framework of legal protections against discrimination erected in its place. The Voting Rights Act led to the enfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of new black voters and helped elect blacks to public office in the South and throughout the nation. Expanding economic opportunities nourished the development of a large and increasingly visible black middle class.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
African Americans and the Civil Rights Movement
Jul. 22, 2022  Black Hairstyles
Nov. 15, 1985  Black America Long March for Equality
Aug. 12, 1983  Black Political Power
Jan. 18, 1980  Black Leadership Question
Aug. 15, 1973  Black Americans, 1963–1973
Nov. 26, 1969  Racial Discrimination in Craft Unions
Sep. 11, 1968  Black Pride
Feb. 21, 1968  Negro Power Struggle
Mar. 08, 1967  Negroes in the Economy
Jan. 19, 1966  Changing Southern Politics
Oct. 27, 1965  Negroes in the North
Jul. 21, 1965  Negro Revolution: Next Steps
Oct. 14, 1964  Negro Voting
Sep. 21, 1964  Negroes and the Police
Jul. 03, 1963  Right of Access to Public Accommodations
Jan. 23, 1963  Negro Jobs and Education
Mar. 25, 1960  Violence and Non-Violence in Race Relations
Aug. 05, 1959  Negro Employment
Apr. 18, 1956  Racial Issues in National Politics
Apr. 18, 1951  Progress in Race Relations
Dec. 17, 1948  Discrimination in Employment
Jan. 10, 1947  Federal Protection of Civil Liberties
Aug. 25, 1944  The Negro Vote
Jul. 01, 1942  Racial Discrimination and the War Effort
Mar. 25, 1939  Civil and Social Rights of the Negro
Jul. 22, 1927  Disenfranchisement of the Negro in the South
Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights: African Americans
Segregation and Desegregation