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The March on Washington: Civil rights then and now

Scott Douglas | 9/5/2013, 6 a.m.

The 1963 March on Washington called upon the best of the American promise when Dr. King noted that though the arc of history is long, it bends toward justice. There was ample contemporary evidence of this fact, as global struggles for national liberation resonated with African American struggles in a mutually reinforcing cadence.

Looking back over the span of 50 years, other more sinister arcs appear. The Civil Rights Movement occurred during a growing economy. From World War II until around 1980, the wealth gap between the poorest and richest Americans actually narrowed. With an expanding economy, although ever-present reactionary voices were heard, they were unheeded.

Today, with the wealth gap growing and the middle class on the same downward trajectory as the poor, near maniacal fear of the future is a potent weapon in the arsenal of political forces that divide Americans.

That 1963 march carved new ground. The 2013 march can recover now-lost ground while providing a foundation for a future with brighter prospects for low- and moderate-income Americans, overcoming fear and division, jingoism and xenophobia, racism and sexism.

Scott Douglas is executive director of Alabama-based Greater Birmingham Ministries, a multi-faith, multiracial organization dedicated to pursuing social justice, helping those in need and building stronger neighborhoods.