Detroit Commemorates 60th Anniversary of Walk to Freedom

By Fighting Words Staff

On Saturday, June 24, 2023, the local NAACP chapter in Detroit sponsored a march down Woodward Avenue to mark the 60th anniversary of the historic civil rights action.

That demonstration, which was held on June 23, 1963, represented the largest march for civil rights and Black freedom up until that time in the United States.

In 1963, the estimated crowd was 125,000 which marched down Woodward Avenue led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rev. C.L. Franklin, Rev. Albert Cleage, educator and real estate broker James Del Rio, UAW President Walther Reuther, among others. Those present at the Detroit Walk to Freedom in 1963 say that the actual crowd was at least twice the size of the official estimate.

Dr. King delivered an earlier version of the “I Have a Dream” speech at the march destination which was Cobo Hall. The 35 minute speech was more in-depth and militant than the address delivered in Washington, D.C. two months later on August 28, 1963.

The address by Dr. King at Cobo Hall was released as an album by Motown Records, founded by Berry Gordy in Detroit during the late 1950s.

Members of the Communist Workers League (CWL) and the Moratorium NOW! Coalition formed a contingent which carried anti-capitalist and anti-war signs. Hundreds of copies of Fighting Words, the journal of the CWL, were distributed widely among the march participants and pedestrians watching the event from the sidewalks.

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