On October 16, 1995 more than a million Black men gather at the nation’s Capitol Hill and Mall in Washington DC for “A Day of Atonement.” This past October marked the 25th anniversary of The Million Man March. The gathering was led by controversial Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan. The call for Atonement, Reconciliation and Responsibility was the theme for Black men to accept their roles as leaders of their families and communities.
Christians, Muslims, Black Nationalists along with those with no religious or organizational affiliation were in attendance. It was billed as a March for justice in response to the spiritual, political and economic warfare that targeted Black people and Black men in particular. The gathering addressed mass incarceration and called for “Stop the Killing” and gang violence. There were young and old Black men standing shoulder to shoulder in the crowd.
There were a sea of Black men and no violence was recorded, according the Final Call newspaper. There were speeches by Civil Right leaders and politicians. Even though the call was made for men only, prominent Black women were on the stage in support of the march. Dr. Betty Shabazz, Malcolm X’s wife, Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks along with many others.
After the historical day many Black men returned home and joined social reform organizations or started businesses. “Get on the Bus”, the Spike Lee movie, captures the event—the love and the complex relationships of families and ideas on the journey to Washington DC. The Million Man March was deemed a success by the Black community, even though some in the mainstream denounced Farrakhan.
“So today, whether you like it or not, God brought the idea through me,” said Farrakhan in his October 16, speech. “He didn’t bring it through me because my heart was dark with hatred and AntiSemitism, He didn’t bring it through me because my heart was dark and I’m filled with hatred for White people and for the human family of the planet. If my heart were that dark, how is the message so bright, the message so clear, the response magnificent.”
The event sparked the Million Women March and the Million Family March.