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The 1st March On Washington
The First March Is Not When You Think It Was
Everyone is familiar with the picture of Martin Luther King Jr., giving the I Have A Dream Speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963. However, many would be surprised that the march of hundreds of thousands on Washington to protest was not originated with the march of 1963. The first official march on Washington took place in 1894 to protest high unemployment and the financial panic of 1893.
The Financial Panic of 1893
The 1880s were a time of financial expansion and growth of individual wealth in the United States. Similar to the tech and housing bubbles of today’s economy, the strength of the economy in the 1880s was railroads. However, as the 1880s drew to a close, the railroads had been overbuilt and were guilty of shady financing to build even more. Because of the bad financing, banks around the Country began to fail. Depositors began pulling their money out of banks. To further the trouble, investors began selling off gold and silver.
By the second inauguration of Grover Cleveland, one of the nation’s biggest railroads had filed for bankruptcy and official a financial panic had begun. An estimated 17 to 19 percent of the work force was unemployed. President Cleveland however believed that the executive branch’s only role was to enforce the Constitution and refused to intervene. Cleveland’s philosophy was the most popular view of the executive branch at the time.
In March 1894, thousands of the unemployed Americans workers organized a march on the Capital to lobby for the government to create jobs with public works projects. The March on Washington was led by a man named Jacob Coxey. Coxey was a populist leader who had run for Congress in 1885 as a member of the Greenback Party.
The March began with 100 men in Massillon, Ohio. It went through Pittsburgh on its way to Washington. Another group came from Maryland. Together, the two groups consinsted of 6000 men. They reached Washington on April 30.
The day after the March, Coxey and other leaders were arrested for walking on the Capital Grounds. Coxey was relentless though and led a similar March on Washington in 1914.
Coxey’s Army and The Wizard of Oz.
In the book, there is the scarecrow, who represents the American Farmer. There is the tin man, who represents the American Industrial Worker. And there is the cowardly lion, who represents a cowardly politician, most likely William Jennings Byran.. All are on their way to the see the Wizard of Oz, who in the book is described to resemble William McKinley. They are on their way to the city of Oz, which represents Washington D.C..
In the book, Dorothy’s magic shoes are not red, but silver. The silver represents the populist desire to see the United States move to a silver rather than a gold standard. To make the shoes more pleasing in the movie, the color was changed to red.
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