Million Man March: A day of atonement

WASHINGTON- Oct. 16, 1995 The crowd of people attending the Million Man March stretched from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol building down the Mall towards the Washington Monument. Official crowd size was never confirmed, but estimates ranged from 400,000 to more than 1 million. Photo by Rick McKay/Washington Bureau)95Cox photo by Rick McKay
WASHINGTON- Oct. 16, 1995 The crowd of people attending the Million Man March stretched from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol building down the Mall towards the Washington Monument. Official crowd size was never confirmed, but estimates ranged from 400,000 to more than 1 million. Photo by Rick McKay/Washington Bureau)95Cox photo by Rick McKay

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The crowd estimate was debated, but the enthusiasm of those who came was undisputed.

The 1995 Million Man March on Washington, D.C. was a life-changing event for many. Organized and headlined by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, the gathering was a call to black men to seek atonement for their discretions as well as encouragement to become better husbands, fathers, sons, brothers and friends.

Ladies were initially asked not to attend, but it was futile to tell black women not to be a part of something so large intended to improve the African-American community.

And so they all came—men, women and children. Many from metro Atlanta.

“It’s time for us to come together and be as one,” Cyrus Colbert, who boarded a bus from Atlanta to attend the march, told The Atlanta Constitution on the day of the march.

A portion of the crowd of people attending the Million Man March in 1995 wave banners on the Capitol grounds. The National Park Service estimated the crowd at 400,000. FILE PHOTO
A portion of the crowd of people attending the Million Man March in 1995 wave banners on the Capitol grounds. The National Park Service estimated the crowd at 400,000. FILE PHOTO

The event wasn’t universally praised. Many prominent leaders, including Atlanta congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, skipped the march because they said Farrakhan preached racial, religious and sexual divisiveness.

Nonetheless, its impact came in many ways. Some men returned and got involved in organizations to address issues like domestic violence. Savannah’s chapter of 100 Black Men credits its origin to the march. The U.S. Census Bureau reported an increase in voter registration. There was a spike in adoptions.

So how many people came that day? Who knows. Attendance ranged from 400,000 to more than 1 million.

Regardless of the headcount, it was a momentous day in African-American history.

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Celebrating Black History Month- Million Man March

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