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Virtually every adult American knows that Mahalia Jackson sang at the 1963 March on Washington and that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
But who can name the genius of organizing the massive event, without whom there would not have been a march? A man who had worked with union leader A. Philip Randolph back in 1941 to organize a similar march of 100,000 to go to Washington and demand that African Americans be employed in the defense industries — and who called it off when President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued an executive order commanding that “Negroes” be hired in defense plants. That man was Bayard Rustin, often called “the forgotten hero” of the civil rights movement.