Million man march

On October 16, 1995, hundreds of thousands of Black men from across the United States gathered in Washington, D.C., for the Million Man March.  Whether or not a million men attended is still up for debate. 

Attendance estimates range widely from between 400,000 to 1.5 million. 

Million Man March
16 October 1996—Washington, DC—The Million Man March on the National Mall, sponsored by the Nation of Islam.

Either way it was still the largest civil rights demonstration in history including the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King made his “I Have a Dream” speech which attracted 250,000 people.

The 12 hour Million Man March, organized by controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, addressed problems plaguing the Black community because of failures by the government and systemic racism.

In his fiery two hour long speech, Farakhan also pointed a finger at Black men and called on them to clean up their lives and become better fathers, husbands and neighbors.

Farakhan was oined on stage by other Civil rights activists and leaders such as Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks and famed poet Maya Angelou who read her poem Still We Rise.

Farakhan called on women to stay away from the event so only a tiny fraction of the crowd was female.  But there were a ton of celebrities including Charles Oakley, Ice-T, Stevie Wonder, Will Smith and a still unknown Barack Obama.

Million Man March
Will Smith, Diddy, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Ricky Bell, Ronnie DeVoe, and Alfonso Ribeiro at Million Man March

A number of Black leaders did not support the march, including Rep. John Lewis, who saw Farrakhan’s message as an effort to “resegregate America.”

Farrakhan raised controversy in the 1960’s when he called Malcolm X a traitor and wrote, two months before his assassination, that “such a man is worthy of death.”

He is also known for using anti-Semitic language and homophobic rhetoric.  And in 2019 Facebook banned Farrakhan from the social media platform because of his “dangerous” views.

For more stories from the 1990s, make sure to check out my podcast “History of the 90s” on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at http://www.curiouscast.ca

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