Hollywood Flashback: In 1963, Hollywood Showed Up to March on D.C.

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Sammy Davis Jr. sat with Rita Moreno (left) and director Joseph L. Mankiewicz (far right, with pipe) at the March on Washington on Aug. 28, 1963.

Sammy Davis  Jr., Rita Moreno, Sidney Poitier and more stars attended the event, which featured Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

The Aug. 28, 1963, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which started at the Washington Monument and ended in front of the Lincoln Memorial, would go down as the most significant civil rights protest in U.S. history — it featured Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech — yet it earned no mention in The Hollywood Reporter. This despite the many stars in attendance — Sammy Davis Jr., Rita Moreno, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, Paul Newman and Marlon Brando among them. (THR did report that Belafonte had canceled a performance that night at L.A.'s Greek Theatre but offered no reason why.)

"Harry decided that he wanted to have a Hollywood contingent there, probably to let Dr. King know that there were people in our profession who really did care," recalls Moreno, 88, who sat 15 feet from King during his now-iconic address. Two days later, however, THR ran a page-one story about equal employment efforts for Black people in Hollywood.

"There seems to be some confusion about the NAACP's not being after star parts and mainly concerned with bit roles," the NAACP's James L. Tolbert said. "That is not true. The NAACP is mainly concerned with fair employment opportunities at every level of motion picture, TV and radio production."

A rally at the same location June 6 to protest the slaying of George Floyd and others by police drew more than 10,000 people. 

This story first appeared in the June 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.