Historically Black Colleges And Universities And The 50th Anniversary Of The March On Washington

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, Howard University is hosting a series of events to celebrate this historic event, as well as a day of service that focuses on taking action to continue to realize the vision that Martin Luther King, Jr. so powerfully articulated for our nation.

As the nation's capital prepares for the 50th anniversary March on Washington on Saturday, August 24th, hundreds of volunteers from the incoming freshman class will participate in the inaugural Howard University Day of Service on Friday, August 23rd. Students at Howard will assist with community service projects in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area that focus on education, homelessness, HIV/AIDs, poverty, voter registration, non-violence, and environmental services. In honor of Martin Luther King's legacy and heeding his call to service, students at Howard will be putting into action the ideals of the social movement that so moved our nation fifty years ago - as civil rights leaders, social activists, and ordinary citizens gathered on the Mall with linked arms and called our nation to social justice and equal opportunity for all.

Historically Black colleges and universities across the country have a rich legacy that is intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement, including their historic role in providing access to higher education for African American students during a time of segregation and limited educational opportunities. Many of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement are graduates of HBCUs: including Martin Luther King, Jr., U.S. Representative John Lewis, former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, social activist Julian Bond, and the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall.

This weekend, HBCU students and alumni from across the nation will be taking part in the 50th anniversary of the March, and Howard alumni are recalling their experiences as university students who participated in the August 1963 event and sharing their stories regarding its impact on their lives. Students at Howard will have the opportunity to meet with former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young, a champion of the Civil Rights Movement and noted Howard alumnus, who will share his experience of the March during the premiere of his new documentary "1963: The Year That Changed America."

HBCUs across the nation continue to prepare the next generation of our nation's African American leaders - graduates who are committed to social justice and improving the quality of life for disadvantaged populations throughout our country and around the world. At our nation's HBCUs, we have a long tradition of placing an ethic of service at the heart of our educational mission.

As we begin the new academic year at colleges and universities across the country, it is critical that we recommit to the goals of the 1963 March on Washington as we respond to the current challenges that face our nation. On all of our campuses across the nation - whether historically Black or Hispanic- serving or predominately White - let us begin the new academic year with a call to action to join with the spirit of the 250,000 marchers who came before us on that hot August day in 1963 at the National Mall. Let us join together in honor of the marchers who stood a quarter of a million strong and held placards - and many who later gave their lives - as they marched for integrated schools, decent housing, jobs with decent pay, voting rights, and civil rights.

Dr. King called the 1963 March on Washington "the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation." Today, half a century later, we must continue to work together to make a difference in promoting equality, justice and a better quality of life for all in our nation and in the communities we serve. To quote a great civil rights leader and public servant, U.S. Representative John Lewis, this is how we bear witness. It is our responsibility and privilege.