A lesser-known fact about the March on Washington is that there were two lines of civil rights leaders marching on separate streets on Aug. 28, 1963: one for male civil rights leaders and one for their female counterparts.
Civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Dorothy Height walked down Independence Avenue, while the men walked down Pennsylvania with the press. Although both male and female activists campaigned for civil rights, women typically didn’t receive as much credit for their contributions. Women often took background roles, such as preparing food and training young activists, but they also strategized the campaigns.
Before the March on Washington, the leading men of the movement invited some female celebrities and activists like Height to stand with them before the Lincoln Memorial. Marian Anderson and Mahalia Jackson were scheduled to sing, but there were no female speakers. Despite their contributions leading up to the march, none of them were invited to speak at length.
Eventually, Myrlie Evers, widow of assassinated NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers, was invited to address the crowd, but she couldn’t make it. Instead, Daisy Bates had the microphone handed to her so she could briefly recognize female activists.
Bates’ speech lasted only 148 words making her the only woman to formally address the crowd during the official program.