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Members of The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference put aside their differences and came together for the march.

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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".

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.

Violent confrontations broke out in the South: in Cambridge, Maryland; Pine Bluff, Arkansas; Goldsboro, North Carolina; Somerville, Tennessee; Saint Augustine, Florida; and across Mississippi.

Most of these incidents involved white people retaliating against nonviolent demonstrators.

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.

Randolph and Rustin intended to focus the March on economic inequality, stating in their original plan that "integration in the fields of education, housing, transportation and public accommodations will be of limited extent and duration so long as fundamental economic inequality along racial lines persists." This coalition of leaders, who became known as the "Big Six", included: Randolph who was chosen as the titular head of the march, James Farmer, president of the Congress of Racial Equality; John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; Martin Luther King Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; About two months before the march, the Big Six broadened their organizing coalition by bringing on board four white men who supported their efforts: Walter Reuther, president of the United Automobile Workers; Eugene Carson Blake, former president of the National Council of Churches; Mathew Ahmann, executive director of the National Catholic Conference for Interracial Justice; and Joachim Prinz, president of the American Jewish Congress.

Together, the Big Six plus four became known as the "Big Ten." On June 22, the organizers met with President Kennedy, who warned against creating "an atmosphere of intimidation" by bringing a large crowd to Washington.

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

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