Top 5 Most Memorable Marches in History

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People march for many reasons. They march to support a cause close to their hearts or they march to oppose that which they see as unjust. They march off to war or they march back home and celebrate victory. They march to show holiday spirit or hometown pride. Or they march because they have no other choice. Every once in a while, a march ends up memorable enough to make its way into the history books. The five marches we are discussing today are similar only in their historical significance and in the fact that they involved people using their feet—beyond those similarities these treks are radically different from one another.

5 Mahatma Gandhi and the Salt March to Dandi

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The Salt March was the defining moment of modern nonviolent civil disobedience as a method of protest. It was also the defining moment of India’s independence movement, which eventually led to the end of British rule. On March 2nd, 1930, under the leadership of Mohandas Gandhi, a throng of Indians pledged to disobey laws levying huge taxes on salt production, and began to march along the coast near the village of Dandi, a known salt-producing region. By the end of the 250 mile trek, Gandhi had been joined by tens of thousands of supporters. Their harsh treatment at the hands of the Brits, which included beatings and jailing, was witnessed by the entire world. The seeds of Indian independence were sewn, as was the inspiration for future nonviolent protests, such as those led by Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

4 The March From Selma to Montgomery

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On March 7th, 1965, a day that would come to be known as “Bloody Sunday,” a group of around 600 Civil Rights demonstrators began a march from the town of Selma, AL, headed for the capitol city, Montgomery. The main cause for this march was to protest the illegal disenfranchisement of thousands of black Alabamans. In response to these citizens peacefully seeking the rights they were due, the police unleashed a torrent of violence, attacking the marchers with fire hoses, tear gas, clubs, dogs and more. Dozens of innocent people were injured and/or arrested. Fortunately, the national outrage at the authorities’ savagery sped up legislation aimed at enforcing equality, and the march ended up opening many Americans’ minds to the Civil Rights movement in general.

3 Sherman’s March to the Sea

From mid-November to mid-December of 1864, General William Tecumseh Sherman led more than 60,000 Union troops on a path of destruction that helped ensure the demise of the Confederacy. The Savannah Campaign, as it was officially known, was of the first modern instances of “total war”: Sherman’s troops not only engaged with rebel forces, but also burned crops and towns, ruined roads, railways and bridges, and generally laid waste to all they could, thus defeating their enemies in combat and also denying them the means to regroup. The five week march led from Atlanta to Savannah, which fell to Sherman’s forces on December 21st.

2 The Bataan Death March

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One of the most tragic events of WWII took place early on during America’s involvement. It was April of 1942 when the Japanese army forced upwards of 80,000 prisoners of war, most of them Americans and Filipinos, to undertake an 80 mile march ostensibly meant to relocate them to a new prison facility. In practice, the march was as also used to kill off many thousands of prisoners. Soldiers ruthlessly murdered any who fell out of line or straggled behind, as many did from starvation and disease. Dozens of accounts of random killings and hundreds of tales of senseless beatings turned the grueling trek into a horror story.

1 The March on Washington

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The official name given to the march and subsequent rally was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, but most today identify the event by the most famous of the many speeches given that day, August 28th, 1963: Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. The March on Washington was the seminal event of the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement, and one that left an indelible mark on American history. The 250,000 people that gathered that day helped to bring about the legal and societal changes that began the journey toward a truly just society, a march that continues to this day.

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