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At the march, Martin Luther King Jr., standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial, delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech in which he called for an end to racism. The purpose of the march was to advocate for the civil and economic rights of African Americans.

They wanted to focus on joblessness and to call for a public works program that would employ blacks.

Some called for a complete shutdown of the city through civil disobedience.

Others argued that the movement should remain nationwide in scope, rather than focus its energies on the nation's capital. Kennedy invited African-American novelist James Baldwin, along with a large group of cultural leaders, to a meeting in New York to discuss race relations.

Wilkins pushed for the organizers to rule out civil disobedience and described this proposal as the "perfect compromise". Leaders from CORE and SNCC, who wanted to conduct direct actions against the Department of Justice, endorsed the protest before they were informed that civil disobedience would not be allowed.

Finalized plans for the March were announced in a press conference on July 2.

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