Objects of the Month

January 2010: March on Washington pennant, 1963

March on Washington pennant, 1963
  • Object No.: 2007.23.1
  • Donor: Hyman Bookbinder
  • Description:

    Fabric pennant mounted on wooden stick, carried by Hyman Bookbinder in the March on Washington, August 28, 1963.

As the seat of the federal government, Washington, D.C., is the primary site for citizens gather in support of a cause or to air their grievances. The local Jewish community has long been involved in national social activism by attending and supporting the many rallies, protests, and demonstrations in the city.

During the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the D.C.-area Jewish community took on several roles. Some marched. Others provided marchers with food or shelter. Congregations opened their doors to hundreds of student marchers, sleeping bags in tow. Over 250,000 people attended the massive civil rights march and rally, which closed with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s now-famous "I Have a Dream" speech.

Hyman "Bookie" Bookbinder (a lobbyist for the AFL-CIO and, later, Washington representative for the American Jewish Committee for 30 years), waved this pennant at the March. Mr. Bookbinder told us of the summer heat and his rising awareness of the remarkable words of Dr. King. Along with those around him, by the end of the speech, he was on his feet, applauding wildly as King finished, "…in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

After loaning the pennant for our award-winning exhibition, Jewish Washington: Scrapbook of an American Community, at the National Building Museum, Mr. Bookbinder decided to donate it to the Jewish Historical Society collections.

To donate your materials that document social movements in the D.C. area (civil rights, Soviet Jewry, D.C. voting, etc.) to the Jewish Historical Society, contact us at (202) 789-0900 or info@jhsgw.org.