King’s March on Washington

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. organized his March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and delivered his memorable “I Have a Dream” speech.  News articles in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal examined how far black Americans have come since the 1960’s.  The disparaging effects of racism were faced head-on by King and his supporters, resulting in the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.  While some aspects of black Americans have improved significantly, in other ways they have not.  In the Wall Street Journal article written by David Wessel, he quotes a statistic: “About six in 10 whites told a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll that America has achieved the Rev. King’s dream.  Blacks see it differently, though.  Only one in five said the goal has been reached”.

Both articles show the impact that King’s March has had on America, specifically the changes that have taken place since then for black Americans.  The New York Time article takes a different approach to the blasé statistic-laden take from the Journal, by interviewing one man who participated in King’s March on Washington fifty years ago. “I felt that this was the beginning of a new era for black Americans, that whites would respect blacks more,” said Daniel R. Smith in the Times.  By interviewing someone who was there on that pivotal day, the New York Times shows the ‘truth’ of the story: by showing the point of view of one of the marchers, and from a black American. While prejudices have decreased significantly and life has increased significantly, there is still work to be done. Both articles convey that necessity, in different ways.

The Journal’s article also showed the ‘truth’ of the impact of King’s March on Washington, by showing different statistics of black Americans lives over the past fifty years.  “In 1966, the earliest year for which comparable data is available, 42% of African-Americans lived in poverty; in 2011, 28% did.  The income of the median black family, the one in the middle of the statistical middle, is 80% higher, adjusted for inflation, than a comparable family in 1963, the Census Bureau says.”

The Times article devoted two webpages telling Daniel R. Smith’s story; the Journal only devoting 600 words exactly, comprised mostly of statistics.

This story of King’s March on Washington is not breaking news; all of the facts and opinions have been told over the past fifty years.  A story of this maturation can be interpreted in a different ways. At the same time,  black Americans’ stories can still be told and interpreted for journalism today. Racial prejudices still exist. King’s March on Washington is being replayed every day in the endless battle against racism,  and that is the truth of both of these stories.


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