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A Defense For Washington March

The Mail


To the Editors of The Summer News:

Joseph M. Russin, in the essay Democracy on the March (Summer News, August 13, 1963) raised questions having to do with the relation of means to ends in the civil rights movement. Russin argued, in part, that "an examination of the goals of the (March on Washington) suggests that few, if any, can be realized by this technique". The goals or ends are "Congressional approval of the President's civil rights legislation, solutions to unemyloyment in general and unemployment of the Negro in particular, and the maintenance and augmentation of militancy in the civil rights movement in local communities." The technique or means planned to realize these goals, according to leaders of the march, is by massive, peaceful and democratic demonstration to provide vivid evidence of the need for the Federal Government to take effective and immediate action to deal with the national crisis of civil rights and jobs for all people in America, both Negro and white. This, then, is a 20th Century populist movement.

I take it that Mr. Russin is not questioning the right of citizens to march, or whether the March should be peaceful. He is raising fundamental questions of what are the best means available to effect social change. And, he has justified two means of effecting social change: legislative remedy and petition by the governed for the redress of grievances. One may assume, I trust, that these means of change are still real alternatives. And, I assume furthur, that Mr. Russin is not suggesting they are the only alternatives, that simply because Congressmen may not be responsive to the March, that Negroes and their allies ought to go on the March.

Mr. Russin's criticisms are well put. But he has committed at least two sins of omission. The first: James Baldwin has said that the Negro will have the white man. One reason is that we still believe in man. Therefore, we men, powerless as we are supposed to be, still believe that it is good, just and important to stand up for what we believe. Sometimes, just to stand, glad that we have freed ourselves so that we can stand, and march. For it is fundamentally a matter of our humanity. The March on Washington gives us a chance to do this.

The second: The March will show that isolated demonstrations are not mere symbols of discontent but express what is felt in the "heart and soul" of the Negro and his allies; there is a common denominator to all the discontent.

Finally, Mr. Russin has said that we will not wake up on August 29, the day after the March, and find that the President has created new jobs and the Congress has passed the necessary legislation. True. But, because the grievances of Negro citizens are identical it is not inconsistent to demonstrate together at the center of political power to realize goals for us all. And, we must and will continue to work on all levels of the civil rights movement, in Senate Chambers, at the negotiation table, in the streets, and in Washington. We plan to send waves of people back to Washington when the fillbuster begins.

Means in the civil rights movement must not be purely practical for men are involved, and the ends or goals they seek are not one civil rights bill but many, and, most importantly, "a place" in American society. Archie C. Epps, 2G   Coordinator, March on Washington,   Greater Boston and Massachusetts

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