Now, people are making that same pilgrimage to mark an important anniversary and to carry on the cause.
It is the march where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic "I Have A Dream" speech that resonated around the world. Although it was 50 years ago, we caught up with some people who remembered it like it was yesterday.
"We had to carry that believing that we shall overcome, " said Timuel Black, who was on the front lines. In 1963, he helped to organize efforts to get Chicagoans on board with the March on Washington and en route to Washington DC.
At 94 years old now, he says it's a day he will never forget.
"Dr. King came up to the podium and started his speech and as he moved along, people who didn't know each other were hugging, shaking hands and when he got to the point of 'I Have A Dream,' tears were flowing from every eye that I could see," said Black.
Dr. Peter Orris, who is now a physician at UIC, was doing similar work in New York. As a 17-year-old volunteer for the March and later the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, he says no one predicted the impact of that legendary speech.
"King's speech brought everybody to their feet, just an extraordinary exercise. Now, everybody listens to it, but to be there that day and feel the crowd, amazing," Orris said. But many agree that 50 years later, "the Dream" remains unfulfilled. Democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia is the sole surviving speaker from that historic day.
"Some people ask me if the election of a black president is the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream. I say no. It's just a down payment. We're not there. When you see a Trayvon Martin case, it reminds me of what happened to Emmett Till," said Lewis.
Now the torch is being passed to the next generation. A Rogers Park mother and daughter are taking part in the 50th anniversary march. They say they believe the civil rights issues of today include everyone -- just as they did in generations past.
"Dr. King's lessons electrified the communities and gave light and understanding to what a just world could look like," said Jane Ramsey, retired, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs
"Because there have been some improvements, people act like racism doesn't exist. They act like sexism doesn't exist. They don't act like homophobia doesn't exist, but they act like it doesn't matter. It's important to remember how far we've come and how far we haven't come," said Laura Saltzman, who was attending the March.
Saturday, thousands of people will converge on the National Mall to re-create that March on Washington -- still fighting for jobs, freedom and other issues of our time.