Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963

“Freedom is never given; it is won.”

A. Philip Randolph, October 15, 1937

This website is based on an exhibition that was on view at the National Museum of American History from December 14, 2012 to September 7, 2014.

There are moments in our nation’s history when individuals unite and take courageous steps to fulfill the promise of democracy. One hundred years separate the Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington. Yet, these two events are profoundly linked together in a larger story of liberty and the American experience. Both were the result of people demanding justice. Both grew out of decades of bold actions, resistance, organization, and vision. In both, we take inspiration from those who marched toward freedom.


United States population: 31,443,321
African American population: 4,441,830 (enslaved 3,953,760)
All states restricted the rights of African Americans and slavery was legal in 15 states



United States population: 179,323,175
African American population: 18,871,831
Racial segregation was legal in all states