10 Songs to Commemorate the March on Washington

Smell is supposed to be the most evocative of the senses, but for many of us there’s nothing like hearing music to evoke emotional memories. The following songs just seem right on this day, as we commemorate the remarkable event that took place on the Mall in Washington, D.C., 50 years ago today. Please add in Comments any songs you are listening to today.

Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on


There’s a king at the glory river
And the precious king loved the people to sing
Babes in the blinkin’ sun
Sang ‘We Shall Overcome’


I wish I knew how it would feel to be free
I wish I could break all the chains still binding me
I wish I could say all the things I should say
Say ’em loud say ’em clear
for the whole round world to hear.

The world won’t get no better
If we just let it be
The world won’t get no better
We gotta change it, yeah, just you and me


Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom?


I can’t stop now
Move up a little higher
Some way, somehow
‘Cause I’ve got my strength
And it don’t make sense
Not to keep on pushin’


Try a little bit harder
open your eyes up
you’ve got to wise up
and then you’re gonna rise up
Keep on pushing a little bit harder

When you feel really low
Yeah, there’s a great truth you should know
When you’re young, gifted and black
Your soul’s intact

Green pastures of plenty from dry desert ground
From the Grand Coulee Dam where the waters run down
Every state in the Union us migrants have been
We’ll work in this fight and we’ll fight till we win

Deep in my heart
I really do believe
That we shall overcome

Photo of singer Odetta at the 1963 March on Washington, from Wikimedia Commons


Michele Kort is senior editor of Ms. Her four books include Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro and, most recently, Here Come the Brides! Reflections on Lesbian Love and Marriage (anthology coedited with Audrey Bilger).


The late Michele Kort—a dedicated feminist—was the senior editor of Ms. magazine for 13 years. She died June 26, 2015, after a long battle with ovarian cancer. She worked for decades in field of journalism, covering sports, music, culture, art and feminist issues for publications like LA Weekly, The Advocate, Shape, Redbook, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Songwriter, InStyle, Living Fit, Fit Pregnancy, Vegetarian Times, Fitness, UCLA Magazine, Women's Sports and Fitness and more. She is the author of four books, including a biography of singer/songwriter Laura Nyro, Soul Picnic: The Music and Passion of Laura Nyro. Rest in power, Michele.