Russell Simmons

Million Man March

The first Million Man March was organized in 1995 by Louis Farrakhan. Hundreds of thousands of African-American men attended the event, traveling by car, train, and even overnight buses to gather on Washington D.C.’s National Mall. The Million Man March was not a demand on government or a political stand, but a call for introspection and forgiveness, one that several black men today continue to cite as an inspiring moment in history.

Speakers included Minister Louis Farrakhan, Rosa Parks, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Maya Angelou, Mr. Martin Luther King III, and the Reverend Benjamin Chavis. Each called on African American men to take personal responsibility for improving themselves and empowering their neighborhoods.  Over the course of the 10 hour event, attendees stood listening, sometimes tearfully, to the powerful messages conveyed by the speakers. The challenges facing the black community were significant: reconstructing family structures, eliminating drug addiction and violence, and providing a better future for African American children.

Most importantly, the world was able to see a positive  representation of black men in America. Participants in the march were demanding equal fairness at a time when there were numerous complaints regarding police violence against African-American men. The Million Man March provided a platform for black men to debate solutions to problems in their communities.  When the March was over, the Washington Mall was left clean in a sign of respect for the property and there were no fights or arrests to distract from the important message of a truly historical day.

Twenty-three years later, we can look back and see the impact of that first Million Man March. The black voting rate increased between 1996 and 2012 as a result of  at least 150,000 men registering to vote on the day of the March. The National Association of Black Social Workers credited more than 300 adoptions to effects the event.  Between 2004 and 2013, the proportion of black children in the foster care system decreased.

Even today, The Million Man March keeps inspiring new movements and organizations. Black women have also spoken up with the Million Woman March and, around the same time, the Black Star Project was launched to help mobilize black men to mentor students in their neighborhoods. The Million Fathers March took place in 2004 with the purpose of getting fathers involved in their children’s growth and education. In support of justice for Trayvon Martin, the protest movement created the Million Hoodie March.  Each of these momentous programs and demonstrations was inspired by the message of the original Million Man March, an event that continues to resonate with Americans today.

photo credit: By Yoke Mc / Joacim Osterstam –, CC BY 2.0,