In Plain Sight

The unfinished March on Washington? MLK's dream of jobs and justice

On this 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, it is worth remembering that Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream was about more than racial justice; it was also about economic justice and jobs.

MLK's son cites poverty first, when speaking of his own dream for America, and remembering his father's. Here is the video he sent us for the Dream Day project, where we invited thought leaders and luminaries to tell NBC News how they would compete the statement, “I Have a Dream that…”:

Elsewhere around the web:

Thomas J. Sugrue reminds us, in an excellent essay about why the call for economic justice resonated so loudly in August of 1963, that the full title of the event was “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The Economic Policy Institute examines the context for the march's demand for a higher minimum wage.

For the marchers, an increase in the minimum wage was one way to address the high poverty rate among black Americans.

As AFSCME President Lee Saunders put it over the weekend on the Melissa Harris-Perry show, Dr. King "understood the importance of linking civil rights with human rights, with labor rights, with worker rights."


Many who have weighed in on this anniversary believe Dr. King’s call for economic justice remains unanswered. Here’s Isaiah J. Poole writing at

In the 50 years since King at the Lincoln Memorial called attention to the “promissory note” to people of color that had come back marked “insufficient funds,” America has still not made good on that note.

Margaret Simms, a Fellow at the Urban Institute, writes, “it is still about jobs: more jobs and better jobs,” and explains very clearly why: Racial gaps in employment have persisted despite Civil Rights-era legislation, and it is quite clear that black workers fared far worse than whites during both the recession and subsequent economic recovery.

In fact, while the overall U.S. unemployment rate is 7.4%, it is 12.6% for African-Americans and 9.4% for Hispanics. According to a report released by the Census Bureau ahead of the march's anniversary, the median income of African-Americans has nearly doubled since 1963, and the poverty rate has fallen by 14 percent. But despite those gains, the economic picture for blacks has been a mixed bag; according to the Pew Research Center, African-American households currently earn about 59% of what white households earn, only a small increase from 55% in 1967.

Here are some excellent infographics from the Center for American Progress showing the changes in economic equality indicators, such as poverty and income, from the Civil Rights era to now.

How would you complete the statement, “I have a dream that…”? Submit your text, photo and video messages using Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Vine with the two hashtags #InPlainSight and #DreamDay.