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Voluntary movement initiation involves the engagement of large populations of motor cortical neurons around movement onset. Despite knowledge of the temporal dynamics that lead to movement, the spatial structure of these dynamics across the cortical surface remains unknown. In data from 4 rhesus macaques, we show that the timing of attenuation of beta frequency local field potential oscillations, a correlate of locally activated cortex, forms a spatial gradient across primary motor cortex (MI). We show that these spatio-temporal dynamics are recapitulated in the engagement order of ensembles of MI neurons. We demonstrate that these patterns are unique to movement onset and suggest that movement initiation requires a precise spatio-temporal sequential activation of neurons in MI.