Million Man March
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Founder
Louis Farrakhan
Time Period
10/16/1995
Description
Organized by Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, the Million Man March took place in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1995. It was the largest gathering of African Americans in U.S. history, with at least 850,000 marchers, according to the National Park Service. Taking place after the widely publicized beating of Rodney King, the subsequent riots in Los Angeles, and in the midst of conservative backlash toward civil rights efforts, the Million Man March desired to paint a more positive portrayal of black males in America. Influenced by previous marches on Washington, the event was staged on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Farrakhan himself invoked both the Koran and the Bible multiple times during his keynote address, reflecting the march’s religious nature.

Although criticized for its gender exclusivity and its controversial leader Farrakhan, the march highlighted the racial unrest of the 1990s.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Prominent Religious Events and People in American History
Race/Ethnicity and Religion
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Prominent Religious Events and People in American History
Race/Ethnicity and Religion in American History
Narrative
Organized by Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, the Million Man March took place in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1995, and was the largest gathering of African Americans in U.S. history. Farrakhan worked with former NAACP Executive Director Benjamin Chavis to drum up support for the march across the country. The National Million Man March Organizing Committee not only attracted the support of other prominent organizations and black leaders but also established a network of hundreds of local, grassroots groups to make the march a reality.

At one level, the Million Man March drew on a longstanding American organizing tradition that included previous marches on Washington. Simultaneously, though, the Million Man March was very much a product of its own time, taking place not long after the widely publicized beating of Rodney King and subsequent riots in Los Angeles and in the midst of the mid-1990s Republican Party revival that was embodied in the Contract with America, which many critics saw as a culmination of backlash against the Civil Rights Movement and its legacy.

The march was not without controversy. One of the principal points of tension was the march’s gender exclusivity, which was criticized by a number of black feminists. Farrakhan saw the reaffirmation of black manhood, personal and familial responsibility, and self-help as being essential for the revitalization of African American communities. This was reflected in the march’s underlining theme of “atonement,” which also spoke to the march’s religious nature, as did Farrakhan’s invocations of both the Koran and the Bible multiple times during his keynote address. Critics also attempted to attack the march due to several of Farrakhan’s previous controversial statements.

The event itself took place on the National Mall, with speeches being delivered from the steps of the U.S. Capitol. The number of marchers who participated is still a point of contention. Immediately following the march, the National Park Service (NPS) asserted that only 400,000 people attended. March leaders disputed this sum, which led the NPS to recalculate the figure as 850,000. Organizers argued instead that the goal of one million marchers had indeed been reached.
Religious Groups
Timeline Entries for the same religious group Islamic

Biographies
Farrakhan, Louis
Movements
Black Muslim Movement
Photographs

Million Man March- Flickr- photo by Jacim Osterstam (CC BY 2.0)

Louis Farrakhan portrait- Wikimedia Commons

Benjamin Chavis, who directed organization of the Milion Man March- Wikimedia Commons- cropped from photo by MeetDrBen (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Book/Journal Source(s)
Gibson, Dawn-Marie, 2012. A History of the Nation of Islam: Race, Islam, and the Quest for Freedom. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
Kelleter, Frank, 2000. Con/Tradition: Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam, the Million Man March, and American Civil Religion. Heidelberg: C. Winter.
Nelson, Jr., William E., 1998. Black Church Politics and the Million Man March. Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press.Notes: In Felton O. Best, ed., Black Religious Leadership from the Slave Community to the Million Man March: Flames of Fire (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1998): 243-257.)
Web Page Contributor
William S. Cossen
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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