This Sunday is the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. To commemorate the event, the National Archives is displaying a program from the march in the East Rotunda Gallery and screening The March on August 27 and 28.
The first reel of this documentary (embedded below) shows the lead-up to the march—from assembling thousand of picket signs to making 80,000 cheese sandwiches for bagged lunches to the long bus rides into the Washington, DC. The first 12 minutes gives a different view of the event from the usual clips of the March on Washington.
The film was directed by James Blue, who was later nominated for an Oscar in 1969 for another documentary, A Few Notes on Our Food Problem.
The March was made as part of a series of films created by the United States Information Agency (USIA), founded by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953. These films were meant to promote American policies in foreign countries, without being overt propaganda. (You can read about the agency’s anticommunism message in this Text Message post about the race to the Moon.)
But these USIA films were rarely seen in America because of concerns about the U.S. Government propagandizing its own people. The 1948 Smith-Mundt Act mandated that no USIA film could be shown domestically without a special act of Congress. But in 1990, an act of Congress (P.L. 101-246) authorized domestic screening 12 years after release, making the films available for screening in the United States.
The March is part of the holdings of the Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Records Section in Special Media Archives Services Division at the National Archives at College Park.