SAVANNAH, Ga.(WSAV) – Organized by the Nation of Islam, the Million Man March, on the nation’s capital in 1995, was billed as a day of atonement for black men, by black men. “We all took a pledge that day, essentially to be a better man,” says local, award winning photojournalist Jason Miccolo Johnson.
Johnson lived in D.C. at the time, and went to the march there to document the history. He recalls when he first saw the crowd gathered on the National Mall. “The mall was packed with men. When I say packed, I mean shoulder to shoulder. A million men about a mile back from the capitol all the way back to the Washington Monument.” Johnson, whose work has been published in dozens of books and magazines, says his photos of the march capture the essence of the day, from iconic images of black leaders to a snapshot of the love and support between a black man and a black woman.
In the days leading up to the Million Man March, some questioned whether that many black men could gather peacefully. Johnson says he witnessed it happen. “It had a air of prominence and importance about it, but it was peaceful, totally peaceful, not a single argument.” 25 years later, he knows the Million Man March inspired other moments like the Million Woman March, and gave birth to movements like Black Lives Matter.
As powerful as his photographs are, Johnson says what he and thousands of other black men learned that day IN 1995 is the march’s true legacy. “When you pledge to do something, it’s up to you individually to carry it out within your own community and within yourself.”