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They also experienced discrimination from businesses and governments, and in some places were prevented from voting through intimidation and violence.

The impetus for a march on Washington developed over a long period of time, and earlier efforts to organize such a demonstration included the March on Washington Movement of the 1940s. Philip Randolph—the president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, president of the Negro American Labor Council, Randolph and Rustin continued to organize around the idea of a mass march on Washington.

They received help from Amalgamated Clothing Workers unionist Stanley Aronowitz, who gathered support from radical organizers who could be trusted not to report their plans to the Kennedy administration.

The public failure of the meeting, which came to be known as the Baldwin–Kennedy meeting, underscored the divide between the needs of Black America and the understanding of Washington politicians.

However, the meeting also provoked the Kennedy administration to take action on the civil rights for African-Americans. Kennedy gave his famous civil rights address on national television and radio, announcing that he would begin to push for civil rights legislation—the law which eventually became the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The purpose of the march was to advocate for the civil and economic rights of African Americans.

In the early 1960s, a system of legal discrimination, known as Jim Crow laws, were pervasive in the American South, ensuring that Black Americans remained oppressed.

They wanted to focus on joblessness and to call for a public works program that would employ blacks.

In early 1963 they called publicly for "a massive March on Washington for jobs".

To avoid being perceived as radical, organizers rejected support from Communist groups.

However, some politicians claimed that the March was Communist-inspired, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) produced numerous reports suggesting the same. Sullivan produced a lengthy report on August 23 suggesting that Communists had failed to appreciably infiltrate the civil rights movement, FBI Director J. They promoted the march by selling buttons, featuring two hands shaking, the words "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom", a union bug, and the date August 28, 1963.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) saw it as a way of challenging and condemning the Kennedy administration's inaction and lack of support for civil rights for African Americans.

Although in years past, Randolph had supported "Negro only" marches, partly to reduce the impression that the civil rights movement was dominated by white communists, organizers in 1963 agreed that whites and blacks marching side by side would create a more powerful image.

The NAACP and Urban League saw it as a gesture of support for a civil rights bill that had been introduced by the Kennedy Administration.