The most prominent white speaker was called the 'white Martin Luther King'
Walter Reuther was the head of the United Automobile Workers, which provided office space, staff and funding for the march in Detroit and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. He was the seventh speaker listed on the program, and shared his remarks to the crowd.
"We will not solve education or housing or public accommodations as long as millions of Negroes are treated as second-class economic citizens and denied jobs," he said.
In 1998, Time Magazine included him in its list of Builders & Titans Of The 20th Century. Irving Bluestone, Reuther's former administrative assistant, shared this popular story to explain who Reuther was at the March on Washington: "Standing close to the podium were two elderly women. As (Reuther) was introduced, one of the women was overheard asking her friend, 'Who is Walter Reuther?' The response: 'Walter Reuther? He's the white Martin Luther King.'"
An openly gay man organized the march in less than two months
Bayard Rustin is "the most important leader of the civil rights movement you probably have never heard of," as LZ Granderson put it in his recent CNN column. Not only did he organize the march in a matter of months, Rustin is credited with teaching King about nonviolence. He also helped raise funds for the Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Council.
During the time, his sexual orientation was known, and he was often in the background to prevent it from being used against the movement.
Fifty years after the march, Rustin, who died in 1987, will be honored with a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in November.
It wasn't the first planned 'March on Washington'
Labor leader and civil rights advocate A. Philip Randolph had threatened a "March for Freedom" on the National Mall in 1941 to pressure then-President Franklin Roosevelt to provide equal opportunity for defense jobs. Randolph hired Rustin to organize part of the march, which they felt was the only way to prompt action after numerous appeals.
It worked: The march was called off after Roosevelt established the Fair Employment Practices Committee, abolishing racial discrimination in hiring.
The march was a Hollywood star-studded event
Popular actor and singer Harry Belafonte used his star power to help bring other celebrities to the March on Washington. Besides reaching out to the stars themselves, Belafonte went to many of the studio heads in Hollywood to get prominent actors and actresses temporarily released from their duties so they could participate.
He was successful. The Hollywood list of attendees that day read like a who's who of A-listers: Marlon Brando, Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Charlton Heston and Burt Lancaster, who also gave a speech.
But having the Hollywood stars there wasn't just for show or for increased media attention. It also helped calm President John F. Kennedy's nerves about the march.
"I believe that their presence did a lot to assuage people who were preoccupied with the fact there could be violence," Belafonte said.
"One of the things that I said in my conversations with the Kennedys in discussing why they should be more yielding in their support of our demonstration was the fact that there would be such a presence of highly profiled artists -- that that alone would put anxiety to rest," he added.
"People would be looking at the occasion in a far more festive way."
One march worker fell asleep during MLK's speech
Back in 1963, college student Patricia Worthy took a job answering phones for the March on Washington's planning office. She had 10 phone lines to answer, and they rang from the time she walked in until she left for the day.