The Poor People’s Campaign was a 1968 effort to gain economic justice for poor people in the United States. It was organized by Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and carried out under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy in the wake of King’s assassination.
The Campaign demanded economic and human rights for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds. After presenting an organized set of demands to Congress and executive agencies, participants set up a 3000-person tent city on the Washington Mall, where they stayed for six weeks.
The Poor People’s Campaign was motivated by a desire for economic justice: the idea that all people should have what they need to live. King and the SCLC shifted their focus to these issues after observing that gains in civil rights had not improved the material conditions of life for many African Americans. The Poor People’s Campaign was a multiracial effort—including African-Americans, whites, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans—aimed at alleviating poverty regardless of race.
I was attending Avionics training in the Navy in nearby Millington, TN in 1968 and 1969. In class I had a few instructors who would launch into racist rants about Dr. King, social justice, Vietnam and other verbal invective. It was not a good time for me to be a captive audience to this.
When we on liberty in the city certain areas were considered off-limits (including the legendary Beale Street). I’m not sure if this location was off limits but I’d like to believe that it was.
“Poor People’s March at Lafayette Park ppmsca.04302” by Warren K. Leffler, U.S. News & World Report – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID ppmsca.04302.
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