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History > 20th century > USA > Civil rights era > Poor people campaign / march    1968




A mother and her children

at the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, D.C.



Jill Freedman, Courtesy of Steven Kasher Gallery


Finding Inspiration in the Struggle at Resurrection City


Oct. 24, 2017
































In early 1968,

the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

and other civil rights leaders

planned a Poor People's Campaign

in Washington, D.C., for the spring.


The group planned to demand

that President Lyndon Johnson

and Congress

help the poor get jobs,

health care and decent homes.


Campaign organizers

intended the campaign

to be a peaceful gathering

of poor people

from communities

across the nation.


They would march

through the capital

and visit various federal agencies

in hopes of getting Congress

to pass substantial

anti-poverty legislation.


They planned to stay

until some action was taken.


But weeks before the march

was to take place,

King was assassinated.


His widow, Coretta,

and a cadre of black ministers,

including the Revs.

Ralph Abernathy

and Jesse Jackson,

decided they would pick up

where King had left off

and that the Poor People's

March on Washington

would go forward.


Thousands of people

participated in the march

on May 12, 1968.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=91626373 - June 19, 2008





The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

often described

poverty and prejudice

as related enemies,

and in the last few

months of his life,

he called publicly

for a national demonstration

by the poor that would “confront

the power structure massively.”


The Poor People’s Campaign

was an effort to do precisely that,

not with just a march

but with an extended occupation

of the National Mall in Washington.


Organized by Dr. King

and the Southern Christian

Leadership Conference

— and led by

Ralph Abernathy

after Dr. King’s

assassination —

the campaign

brought around

3,000 people

from all over the country

to a spit of land

that would soon

be drenched by rains,

and filled with

wooden shanties

and varied attempts

at utopian do-it-yourself






"We're coming to Washington

in a poor people's campaign,"

King announced

at the National Cathedral

in Washington, D.C.,

on March 31, 1968.


"I was in Marks, Miss.,

the other day,

which is in Quitman County,

the poorest county

in the United States.


And I tell you I saw hundreds

of black boys and black girls

walking the streets

with no shoes to wear."













- June 19, 2008










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