Cover image for Marching on Washington : the forging of an American political tradition

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Summary

Summary

When Jacob Coxey's army marched into Washington, D.C. in 1894, observers didn't know what to make of this concerted effort by citizens to use the capital for national public protest. By 1971, however, when thousands marched to protest the war in Vietnam, what had once been outside the political order had become a routine gesture in American political culture. Lucy G. Barber's lively, erudite history of marching on Washington explains how this political tactic began as something unacceptable and gradually became legitimate. Barber shows how these highly visible events contributed to the development of a broader and more inclusive view of American citizenship and transformed the capital from the exclusive domain of politicians and officials into a national stage for American citizens to participate directly in national politics.

Marching on Washington depicts in detail six demonstrations and the protest movements behind them, beginning with Coxey's Army in 1894 and including marches for woman suffrage, veterans' bonuses, and equal opportunity as well as the enormous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 and the antiwar protests in 1971. These depictions show how ambitious, skillful, and daring organizers challenged the government and claimed the capital as a political space where citizens could voice their concerns to their elected leaders. An epilogue explores marches in Washington since 1971.

On a broader level, Barber scrutinizes the strategic uses of American citizenship and the changing spatial politics of the capital. From this perspective, it is a story not only about the power of American citizens but also about the shifting terrain of citizenship. At the same time, the history of marching on Washington is a story of spaces lost and of spaces won. It is a fascinating account of how citizens project their plans and demands on national government, how they build support for their causes, and how they act out their own visions of national politics.


Author Notes

Lucy G. Barber is an archivist for the California State Archives in Sacramento.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ever since Coxey's Army brazenly (so it seemed at the time) marched on Washington in 1894, millions of Americans have pushed into the capital to build support for a cause, register protest or attempt to influence federal legislation. Demonstrators naturally adopted a wide variety of styles: thousands of women activists in 1913 staged a silent, "beautiful and dignified" pageant for women's suffrage; Vietnam War veterans in 1971 performed mock search-and-destroy missions on Pennsylvania Avenue; and, of course, Martin Luther King Jr. uplifted hundreds of thousands of marchers in 1963 with his "I Have a Dream" speech. Barber, archivist for the California State Archives, attends closely to the definition of success for these high-profile marches. The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, for example, may have been massive, peaceful and orderly, with extensive media coverage and an unforgettable speech, but Barber notes that the march yielded no immediate legislative gains. That kind of critical analysis elevates this book from a mere historical chronicle to a more analytical account of marching as a form of political action and enduring change. Barber examines six notable marches, with special attention to the activists and organizers, politicians and public officials, and, finally, journalists and the general public. In her conclusion, Barber asks: "What political purposes do these protests serve now that they have become so pervasive? To what degree are they effective?" Although she does not have answers to those questions, her historical perspective on the successes and failures of previous marches provides a useful starting point. 33 b&w photos, 4 maps. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

With antiwar marchers once again filling the streets of Washington, DC, this selective history of past protest marches is both timely and illuminating. Barber (California State Archives) looks at the phenomenon of the protest march on two levels: generally, as a strategic use of citizenship, and specifically, taking six influential marches as case studies. The marches she analyzes and describes include Coxey's Army (1894), the Woman Suffrage Procession (1913), the Veterans' Bonus March (1932), the aborted Negro March on Washington (1941), the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963), and the antiwar Spring Offensive (1971). In each case, the organizational strategies, in-fighting, and decision making provide fascinating reading-as do the responses from the administrations in power at the time. In an epilog, Barber presents a brief overview of recent marches and causes. Her research is impressive (she is, after all, a librarian!): 65 pages of detailed notes followed by a ten-page bibliographical essay. Highly recommended for academic and large public libraries.-Thomas A. Karel, Franklin & Marshall Coll. Lib., Lancaster, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Choice Review

Centering her narrative around the development of marching on Washington, D.C., as a political tradition, Barber (California State Archives) examines the historical relationship between political protest in the US and national identity. She begins her overview with Jacob Coxey's 1894 visit to make a "petition in boots" to Congress and ends with the more raucous Spring Mobilization against the war in Vietnam in 1971. Barber lucidly argues that between those two moments, marching on Washington became more acceptable and common; parts of D.C. became "national public spaces"; and the purpose of marches morphed from securing legislative or executive action to movement building. She contends that activists, journalists, and politicians and officials interacted to shape the events that led to these changes. At the same time, decades of demonstrations in the nation's capital also contributed to the development of a more inclusive understanding of US citizenship. Written without pretense and organized in self-contained chapters, this book would work well in any US history survey or politics course. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. All levels and collections. C. Montrie University of Massachusetts Lowell


Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. ix
Prefacep. xiii
Introductionp. 1
1. "Without Precedent" Coxey's Army Invades Washington, 1894p. 11
2. A "National" Demonstration: The Woman Suffrage Procession and Pageant, March 3, 1913p. 44
3. "A New Type of Lobbying" The Veterans' Bonus March of 1932p. 75
4. "Pressure, More Pressure, and Still More Pressure" The Negro March on Washington and Its Cancellation, 1941p. 108
5. "In the Great Tradition" The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963p. 141
6. The "Spring Offensive" of 1971: Radicals and Marches on Washingtonp. 179
Epiloguep. 219
Notesp. 229
Bibliographical Essayp. 297
Acknowledgmentsp. 307
Indexp. 311