News & Politics

What to Expect at the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Three presidents and plenty of other dignitaries (Oprah!) will mark the occasion, which means a lot of logistical precautions.

Photograph via US National Archives.

After a week full of events commemorating the half century since the Rev. Martin Luther King led the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the celebration will conclude tomorrow, the actual anniversary, with a large rally at the Lincoln Memorial.

The “Let Freedom Ring” Commemoration and Call to Action begins at 11 AM (admission starts at 9), featuring more than four hours of music and speeches. The event, which will be emceed by Soledad O’Brien and Hill Harper, will feature speeches by Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker, stars of the new film The Butler; Lynda Johnson Robb, daughter of President Lyndon B. Johnson; Andrew Young, the civil rights activist who later served as US Ambassador to the United Nations; and Jamie Foxx.

The ceremony will also feature remarks by President Obama and former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. The three presidents will ring bells at 3 PM, about 50 years to the minute that King wrapped up his “I Have a Dream” address.

More speakers, announced just today, include DC Mayor Vince Gray; Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley; Senator Angus King, Independent of Maine; Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy; and Benjamin Jealous, the president of the NAACP.

Among the performers scheduled to go on are the R&B singer BeBe Winans, country singer LeAnne Rimes, and the folk singers Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey, whose group, Peter, Paul and Mary, performed at the 1963 march.

Of course, with three presidents and plenty of other high-profile dignitaries on hand (Oprah), getting to the Mall might be a hassle. At 4 AM tomorrow, the National Park Service will close down access to the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, World War II Memorial, and DC War Memorial. Additionally, numerous road closures will go into place:

  • Arlington Memorial Circle will remain open, however, Arlington Memorial Bridge will be closed
  • F St. traffic will be allowed to access the northbound lanes of the Rock Creek Parkway to eastbound Virginia Ave.
  • Rock Creek Parkway from Virginia Ave. to Parkway Dr. – It is recommended that drivers utilize Connecticut Ave. or 16th St. as an alternate route
  • Parkway Dr. from Rock Creek Parkway to Lincoln Memorial Circle
  • Independence Ave. from 15th St. to 23rd St.
  • Ohio Dr. from Inlet bridge to Parkway Dr., including the A, B and C parking lots
  • Theodore Roosevelt Bridge will remain open, however users of the Ohio Dr. exit will be forced to U-turn north onto the Potomac Freeway
  • Maine Ave. from 15th St. to Independence Ave., including Tidal Basin parking lot
  • North and southbound lanes of 17th St. between Independence Ave. and Constitution Ave.
  • Daniel French Dr.
  • 23rd St. from Independence Ave. to Constitution Ave.
  • Henry Bacon Dr.

For those arriving by public transit, Metro recommends getting off at the Metro Center, Farragut North, Farragut West, or Archives-Navy Memorial stations. The Smithsonian station will be open, but will be extra-crowded. Shuttle buses will be available from Foggy Bottom station for ticket-holding attendees with mobility issues.

And for those who have to work tomorrow, federal employees in DC are being urged to use a telework day. The Office of Personnel Management sent a memo yesterday stating that federal workers “should expect significant commuting delays and travel disruptions” from tomorrow’s events.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.