In this WSB newsfilm clip dated 1968, Poor People's Campaign participants stop in Atlanta en route to Washington D.C., where protests are scheduled; they eat at Morehouse College, view Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace and grave site, and attend a preliminary rally at the Atlanta Civic Center. Alberta Williams King speaks to an audience in front of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace at 501 Auburn Avenue; Reverend Joseph E. Boone speaks to mourners at King's original burial site at South-View Cemetery; Coretta Scott King addresses a Poor People's Campaign rally at the Atlanta Civic Center; and Gladys Knight and the Pips and Stevie Wonder perform for the rally audience. Some images in the clip repeat.
The clip, which is approximately seven minutes long, begins with several shots taken of a march in Atlanta that precedes the Poor People's Campaign in Washington, D.C. Shots of the march are interspersed with a close-up shot of a group of spectators; several people carry a banner that reads "I'm on my way Poor people's march on Washington." Next, a large group of African American people serve themselves food from a series of tables filled with casseroles and prepared foods inside of the Archer Hall gymnasium at Morehouse College. A reporter (off camera) asks an unidentified elderly African American woman from Mississippi how far she is traveling; she tells him that she is going to Washington, D.C., that she will stay there "for a while," then return to Mississippi; she then agrees that she may have to return to Washington "again and again," in the reporter's words. This is followed by a brief shot of Ebenezer Baptist Church, taken from a distance; the Atlanta skyline is visible, and several buses are parked in front of the church.
Next, Martin Luther King, Sr., Coretta Scott King, and several of the King children are gathered together amidst a crowd on what is presumably the unveiling of a plaque memorializing King's birthplace at 501 Auburn Avenue on May 9, 1968; this is followed by a shot of passersby looking down at the ground, and then by a shot of the plaque, which reads "Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in this house January 15, 1929." Next, an eleven-piece Motown band performs at the Poor People's Campaign rally in front of a banner that reads "Poor People's Campaign benefit"; the band was flown in by Motown Record Corporation president Berry Gordy, along with several prominent Motown acts that included Diana Ross and the Supremes, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder, and the Temptations. Shots of Gladys Knight and the Pips performing are interspersed with shots of the audience; fragments of songs are recorded on the audio track. Next, Coretta Scott King addresses the audience from a microphone; she says "I'm sure my late husband is smiling on the city of Atlanta tonight for . . . this enthusiastic and overwhelming welcome that you are displaying in your presence here and for the support of the Poor People's Campaign . . ." The audience sings "We shall overcome," accompanied by the band onstage.
Next, in a silent section of the clip, two school buses are parked alongside South-View Cemetery. The camera pans to the right, towards Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s original burial site at the cemetery, where a large crowd has gathered beneath an awning beside King's grave. Reverend Joseph E. Boone speaks to the crowd as he stands next to King's headstone; one mourner wipes away tears with a handkerchief. There are several more shots of the crowd at the cemetery, of passengers returning to the buses, of Boone, of the eternal flame at King's grave, and a close-up of King's epitaph, which reads "Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968 'Free at last free at last, thank God almighty I'm free at last.'" This is followed by a school bus pulling into the Atlanta Stadium parking lot, and a crowd of people marching down the street past the stadium. People stand in a parking lot, unload their luggage from the tour buses and wait in lines with their luggage on the ground. The sound returns, and background noise is audible as several shots from the march shown at the beginning of the clip are repeated. Next, a group of people wait outside of what appears to be an academic building, presumably at Morehouse College; this is followed by people serving themselves food from large tables, and sitting down to eat inside of the Archer Hall gymnasium at Morehouse College.
The clip returns to footage of the audience at the Poor People's Campaign rally, interspersed with shots of Gladys Knight and the Pips (William "Red" Guest, Edward Patten, and Merald "Bubba" Knight), and a shot of Stevie Wonder performing. The audio track is uneven; fragments of songs are heard along with background noise. Next, Coretta Scott King is introduced to the audience; she says "At this time in our nation there is a need to rededicate ourselves and recommit ourselves to bring about the kind of society and the kind of world where men and women, boys and girls can really live in dignity and freedom and justice and in peace." This is followed by several close-ups of members of the audience singing "We Shall Overcome." As the song ends, Ralph David Abernathy, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), makes his way through the audience.
Next, Alberta Williams King, mother of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks to a group of people in front of her son's birthplace on 501 Auburn Avenue; due to several breaks in the clip, her comments are not completely recorded. This is presumably back at the unveiling of the memorial plaque in front of King's birth home; cameramen film the plaque, next, Alberta Williams King describes the Auburn Avenue neighborhood and community as ". . . unpretentious, honest, and plain. And so were the people who lived here, people from all walks of living lived here together, and there existed a wonderful friendship, fellowship, and closeness to one another." There is a shot of a group of African American police officers, then a shot of Martin Luther King, Sr. and Coretta Scott King standing amidst the crowd on Auburn Avenue. Alberta Williams King's voice is recorded over the shot. This is followed by an overexposed shot of a walkway in front of a building with columns and large windows; the last shot in the clip is of the front of Ebenezer Baptist Church. The church doors are open, several clusters of people are gathered in front of the church, and two motorcycles are parked in front of the building.
Following Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination on April 4, 1968, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference vowed to continue work on the Poor People's Campaign in his memory. Cooperating with other civil rights and relief organizations, SCLC members planned a six-week event in Washington, D.C. that lasted from May 2 to June 19 to emphasize the plight of the nation's poor and to persuade the passage of federal legislation that would improve the economic and social conditions of the impoverished. SCLC leaders organized several regional caravans to travel to Washington, D.C. A delegation of approximately five hundred people from Mississippi and Alabama arrived on buses in Atlanta on May 9 to rest before they resumed travel to Washington; food and lodging were provided by private Atlanta residents and members of local churches. While in Atlanta, Poor People's Campaign participants viewed King's birthplace and original burial site at South-View cemetery (his remains were moved to the King Center in 1970), and attended a preliminary rally at the Atlanta Civic Center. The crowd at the rally drew an audience of approximately thirteen thousand people, and included speakers Coretta Scott King, Ralph D. Abernathy, and Hosea Williams; musical performances were provided by Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and Gladys Knight and the Pips. Poor People's Campaign demonstrators traveled onward to Washington, where they lived in Resurrection City, a tent settlement on the Mall, and protested at numerous federal agencies on behalf of economic justice. The Poor People's March on Washington, held on June 19, signified the end of the campaign.
Title supplied by cataloger.
The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.