Lucy G. Barber author of Marching on Washington: The Forging of an American Political Tradition
When Jacob Coxey's army marched into Washington, D.C. in 1894, observers didn't know what to make of this concerted effort by citizens to use the capital for national public protest. By 1971, however, when thousands marched to protest the war in Vietnam, what had once been outside the political order had become a routine gesture in American political culture. Lucy G. Barber's lively, erudite history of marching on Washington explains how this political tactic began as something unacceptable and gradually became legitimate. Barber shows how these highly visible events contributed to the development of a broader and more inclusive view of American citizenship and transformed the capital from the exclusive domain of politicians and officials into a national stage for American citizens to participate directly in national politics.
Marching on Washington depicts in detail six demonstrations and the protest movements behind them, beginning with Coxey's Army in 1894 and including marches for woman suffrage, veterans' bonuses, and equal opportunity as well as the enormous March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 and the antiwar protests in 1971. These depictions show how ambitious, skillful, and daring organizers challenged the government and claimed the capital as a political space where citizens could voice their concerns to their elected leaders. An epilogue explores marches in Washington since 1971. On a broader level, Barber scrutinizes the strategic uses of American citizenship and the changing spatial politics of the capital. From this perspective, it is a story not only about the power of American citizens but also about the shifting terrain of citizenship. At the same time, the history of marching on Washington is a story of spaces lost and of spaces won. It is a fascinating account of how citizens project their plans and demands on national government, how they build support for their causes, and how they act out their own visions of national politics.
Lucy G. Barber is an archivist for the California State Archives in Sacramento. She has taught United States history at the University of California, Davis; Rhode Island School of Design; and Brown University.
Back to Main Page
Back to Calendar