Thousands came, from 30 states, to the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on May 17, 1957. They wanted more, and faster, action on civil rights issues and to look back and forward on the third anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education.
In a speech to the crowd that day, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described that landmark Supreme Court decision as “a joyous daybreak to end the long night of enforced segregation.”
But even then, it was clear that segregation in schools would outlast its historic defeat in the courts, in part because efforts to put the ruling in effect were weak or nonexistent.
“The Supreme Court’s decision is not self-enforcing,” said an article in The New York Times Magazine a few weeks after the pilgrimage, “and instead of spelling the end of an era of civil-rights litigation, it has marked the beginning of a new and even more bitter phase.”
The photograph above seemed to capture perfectly the mood of the time: No one in the picture looks satisfied or triumphant. But our article that day relied only on words. No photographs were included.