Some 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed America's slaves, many Americans embraced the ideal of racial equality but were frustrated with the glacial pace of change. Organizers were making plans to bring people from across the country to the nation's capital to express their exasperation in a peaceful, nonviolent manner.
On Aug. 28, 1963, more than 250,000 people rallied at the Lincoln Memorial. The gathering stretched down the National Mall, past the reflecting pool toward the Capitol. The music and speeches they heard extolled the urgent need for social justice.
Fifty years later, the March on Washington is mostly remembered for the Rev. Martin Luther King's eloquent speech — his dream of an America where people "will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."
Here's a gallery of images from then and now, from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and from Saturday's National Action to Realize the Dream.
Left: A mass of demonstrators leaves the Washington Monument for the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Right: People line the Reflecting Pool as they attend a rally Saturday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march.
Top: A group of demonstrators pose for a photo at the Lincoln Memorial during the Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington. Bottom: The Rev. Al Sharpton, center; U.S. Rep. John Lewis, arm-in-arm with Sharpton; Martin Luther King III, third from right; Andrea King; and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, second from left, after Saturday's rally at the Lincoln Memorial.
Top: A crowd gathers in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for civil rights on Aug. 28, 1963. Bottom: People attend Saturday's rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial.
Top: Large crowds gather near the Washington Monument to demonstrate for the civil rights movement in Washington on Aug. 28, 1963. Bottom: People hold up banners as they attend Saturday's rally to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1963 march.
Top: Large crowds gather at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28, 1963. Bottom: Participants gather on the same steps Saturday.