Its walls are adorned with portraits, quotations, blow-ups of period newspaper articles, graphics depicting icons and martyrs, and other artifacts of the civil rights era. Georgia STAND-UP’s The Movement Center headquarters is a living monument to the epic struggle by Black Americans to realize social and economic equality. The expansive multi-purpose facility which has become a favored gathering place of social activists as well as a setting for community events, works to sustain the culture and energy that drove America’s most transformative modern social movement.
That legacy is the driving force behind STAND-UP’s commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the March on Washington slated for Saturday August 28. Organized by A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, the march drew over 250,000 people to the National Mall where Martin Luther King, Jr. made his famous “I Have A Dream Speech.” A coalition of freedom activists, labor, and religious groups branded the event as march for ‘jobs and freedom’. The march highlighted voting rights campaigns and mass demonstrations forcing Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964, end legal segregation and give full citizenship to Black Americans.
‘Jobs and freedom’ referred to two key desires of African Americans—economic opportunity and full rights as citizens. Full citizenship centered on the right to vote, widely denied at the time to Black people, especially in the South. The late Congressman John Lewis, a friend of Georgia STAND-UP, was a speaker on that 28th day of August in 1963. He went on to head up the Atlanta-based Voter Education Project, where STAND-UP CEO, Deborah Scott, found her first job after college and became a lifelong advocate for voting rights.
Today the very foundation of democracy is again under attack. False claims of a stolen 2022 election were grounded in rumors and lies designed to disenfranchise Black voters. Many states, led by Georgia, have adopted laws intended to discourage voting that are aimed specifically at African American constituencies. This vehement reaction to Black voting power goes beyond 2022; it is aimed at all the racial advancement achieved since 1963. Over that 60-year period thousands of Black officials have been elected to political office. They represent measurable progress in advancing diversity, achieving social equity and protecting democracy.
Igniting the Flame of Democracy:
Deborah Scott's Speech at the 58th March on Washington (2021)
Fulton County Prosecutor Fani Willis is a sterling example of that progress. Her courageous, unblinking, by-the-letter-of-the-law investigation of those accused of trying to overturn the results of Georgia’s presidential election exemplifies the power of the vote. The first Black woman elected to her position, Ms. Lewis is both the promise and payoff of 1963. But the adversaries of freedom and opponents of Black empowerment are still at work, as evidenced by efforts in the Georgia General Assembly to craft legislation blocking public servants like prosecutor Willis from fairly and equally enforcing our laws.
Georgia STAND-UP recognizes the continuity between 1963 and 2023, the ongoing struggle to secure full rights of citizenship and the constant obligation to defend democratic principles. Our commemoration of the Great March on Washington is rooted in that mission, and that makes us proud.