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The Story Behind the Million Man March

How the event came together on Oct. 16, 1995, at the National Mall in D.C.

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    United on the Mall

    The goal of the Million Man March was unity against economic and social issues afflicting African Americans and attention from the Washington political establishment.

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    The Organizers

    The civil rights group National African American Leadership Summit, the Nation of Islam and local chapters of the NAACP formed the Million Man March Organizing Committee.

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    The Leaders

    Civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis Jr., founder of the National African American Leadership Summit, served as the march’s national director. Chavis and the committee organized the march, and Louis Farrakhan was the march’s leader and spokesman.

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    The Controversy

    Some supporters initially voiced concern that controversies associated with march leader Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, might overshadow the event’s message.

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    Voter Registration

    The march spurred widespread campaigns to register African American voters across the country.

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    The Turnout

    The National Park Service estimated turnout for the march at 400,000; Boston University research funded by the ABC TV network put the crowd at 837,000.  

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    Female Leaders

    The Day of Absence, a concurrent event organized  by female leaders, was intended to connect African Americans who were unable to attend the march. Participants were encouraged to attend teach-ins and worship services in their area.  

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    Million Woman March

    Two years later, the Million Woman March was held in response to concerns that black women had been excluded from the 1995 march. It started at the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and ended on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum.

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    The Crowds Returned

    Estimates of attendance at the Million Woman March ranged from 2.1 million by event organizers and 500,000 by a University of Pennsylvania study to between 300,000 and 1 million by law enforcement officials.

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    The Next March

    According to Louis Farrakhan, above with activist Dick Gregory at a news conference on June 24, 2015 to announce the next march, “Justice or Else” is the theme  of the Million Man March’s 20th anniversary event planned for Oct. 10 in Washington, D.C.

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