October 16, 1995:
On this day a million Black men and children converged on DC.
The Million Man March was a large gathering of African-American men in Washington, D.C., on October 16, 1995 held on and around the National Mall. This assembly of black men was organized and hosted by the Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan who called for all able-bodied African American men to come to the nation’s capital to address the ills of black communities and call for unity and revitalization of African American communities. Although the Million Man March was proposed and organized primarily by the leader of Islam, many religions, institutions, and community organizations across the spectrum of African America joined together as a collective not only for a rally of black men but also to build what many saw as a movement directed toward a future renaissance of the black race.
The collective invited many prominent speakers to address the audience, and African American men from across the United States converged in Washington to “convey to the world a vastly different picture of the Black male and to unite in self-help and self-defense against economic and social ills plaguing the African American community.
The organizers of the event took steps to lift the march from a purely political level to a spiritual one, hoping to inspire attendees and honored guests to move beyond “articulation of black grievances” to a state of spiritual healing. Speakers at the event structured their talks around three themes: atonement, reconciliation, and responsibility. The Day of Atonement became a second name for the event and for some came to represent the motivation of the Million Man movement. In the words of one man who was in attendance, Marchers aimed at “being at one with ourselves, the Most High, and our people”.
Beyond the most basic call for atonement leaders of the March also called for reconciliation or a state of harmony between members of the black community and their God. Speakers called participants to “settle disputes, overcome conflicts, put aside grudges and hatreds” and unite in an effort to create a productive and supportive black community that fosters in each person the ability to “seek the good, find it, embrace it, and build on it.” Finally, the leaders of the March challenged participants and their families at home to “expand [our] commitment to responsibility in personal conduct…and in obligations to the community”.