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'Jobs, Justice and Peace' march commemorates King’s 1963 visit to Detroit


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., second from right, marched with UAW President Walter P. Reuther, left, and other civil rights leaders in Detroit in 1963. He previewed his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech before delivering it in Washington two months later. Photo courtesy of the Walter P. Reuther Labor Archives at Wayne State University.

Nearly 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. sat in donated office space at the UAW headquarters in Detroit, trying to find just the right words that would stir America’s soul and move it toward a more just society.

“I have a 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.’ ”

Joined by then-UAW President Walter P. Reuther and others, King spoke these words at Detroit’s Walk to Freedom, two months before he gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on Washington’s Mall on Aug. 28, 1963.

King’s eloquent and stirring words take on added meaning a half century later as our nation struggles with joblessness, economic and social inequality and two wars. The UAW, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and other allies will kick off a “Jobs, Justice and Peace” campaign in downtown Detroit on the Aug. 28 anniversary of the famous speech in Washington. The UAW will participate with the NAACP and other allies in the "One Nation, Working Together" march on Oct. 2 in Washington, calling for jobs for all.

“It’s time for the people to lead the change for working families and all America,” said UAW President Bob King. “It’s time for bold policies that transform this country and focus on everyday citizens -- policies that result in jobs for all people in our society and investment in the future of our children by building factories, rebuiliding roads, and reducing the economic hardship for millions of Americans. It’s time to rebuild America with jobs, justice and peace.”

Marchers, who will gather at 10:30 a.m. at the UAW-Ford National Program Center at 151 W. Jefferson Ave., in Detroit, will ask national leaders to:

  • Rebuild America by enacting industrial and trade policies that will create jobs, encourage manufacturing in America and put workers first.
  • Enforce the law regarding workers’ rights, civil rights, industrial regulation and the creation of fair and just educational, economic and health policies.
  • End the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and redirect the war budget to rebuilding America.
  • Enact a moratorium on the practice that forces hardworking Americans from their homes while at the same time bailing out Wall Street executives and paying them million-dollar bonuses.

“We need a plan for recovery,” said the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., president and founder of Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “We need economic reconstruction. We need urban policy geared toward reindustrialization. We need fair trade policies that will even the playing field for American companies and workers and, as more and more people face greater economic need, it’s time to revive the War on Poverty.”

The 'One, Nation Working Together' march will be held on Oct. 2 in Washington.

The Detroit march begins a campaign that will include the “One Nation, Working Together” march in Washington on Oct.  2. It’s worth noting that the 1963 Detroit and Washington marches laid the groundwork and public demand for the passage of the Civil Rights Act the following year. Organizers of both marches hope that a climate for change will develop by bringing together labor, civil rights, community and religious activists.

“The labor movement and civil rights movement helped build a strong middle class by giving Americans the right to improve their lives – the right to dignity, a decent job, a roof over our heads and the ability to send our children to college,” the UAW’s King said. “We have lost these rights and our American middle class is eroding. It’s time to fight back.”

Vince Piscopo