Poor People's Campaign


In the wake of Martin Luther King Jr.'s death, the fate of his final cause, the Poor People's Campaign, faced an uncertain future. As chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), King committed the organization's resources to the Poor People's Campaign in 1967, in response to the string of urban riots that had recently occurred in New York, New Jersey, Chicago and Los Angeles. The goal of the campaign was to emphasize the plight of the poor and to push the country's lawmakers to pass federal legislation to improve the economic and social conditions of the impoverished. At the time of King's death, members of the SCLC were in the midst of planning a massive demonstration of the nation's poor in Washington, D.C. Following King's assassination, Ralph Abernathy took over leadership of the SCLC and vowed to continue work on the Poor People's Campaign in memory of his fallen colleague. In May of 1968, demonstrators descended on the nation's capitol, arriving by foot, car, bus, horse-drawn carriage, and mule train. While in Washington, the protestors lived in Resurrection City, an encampment set up on the National Mall, which maintained dining and daycare facilities, a dispensary, and its own City Hall. For the next six weeks, thousands of participants poured into Resurrection City and staged daily demonstrations at the offices of government officials and their agencies. Despite the efforts of the organizers and participants, the Poor People's Campaign and their march on Washington failed to garner the intended response from the country's legislators. On June 19, 1968, following a demonstration at Lincoln Memorial, Resurrection City closed and the Poor People's Campaign reached an uneventful end.

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