Poor People’s Campaign

Poor People’s Campaign

Alexandra Simpson

The Poor People’s Campaign began in 1968 and is still an organization present day. The main event, a march, was held from May 12 through June 24, 1968 (Wikipedia). The march was originally planned to be on April 22, 1968 but was postponed due to MLK being murdered on April 8, 1968 (Cho). The march began in Marks, Mississippi Washington D.C (Wikipedia). The purpose was to gain economic justice for the poor people in the United States. The people demanded economic and human rights, the idea that all people should have what they need to live, for different backgrounds/races (Wikipedia). They also addressed the issues of unemployment, housing shortages for the poor, and the impact of poverty on the lives of Americans (Cho). At the beginning of the march, Mrs. King addressed the problem around welfare for poor mothers and their children (Franklin 1). At that point, the average child was receiving less than one dollar a day from the Dependent Children program (Franklin 2). The Poor People’s Campaign petitioned for the government to pass an Economic Bill of Rights that included a $30 billion annual appropriation for a real war on poverty, congressional passage of full employment and guaranteed income legislation, and construction of 500,00 low-cost housing units per year until slums were eliminated (Poor People’s Campaign). The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Committee of 100 and Martin Luther King Jr originally organized this event. It was later carried out by Ralph Abernath after King was assassinated (Wikipedia). About 5,000 demonstrators showed up during the first week of the protest, May 12-22 (Cho). The organization called for different groups of people to come together to make change. The Milwaukee Star informed people in the African-American community about this protest and its purpose as well as encouraged them to participate (Milwaukee Star).

Volunteers working on “Resurrection City” shelters in Washington, DC

The “Resurrection City” served as a symbol during the protest in Washington, DC. There were good and bad things associated with the makeshift city. The “City consisted of tents and shelter built by volunteers. The shelters were constructed by the campaign’s Building and Structures Committee (Wikipedia). A negative aspect was the unwillingness of Abernath and other leaders to go stay with the people staying Resurrection City (Mantler). An advantage of the “Resurrection City” was the unity it exhibited during the few week span of the demonstration. The government’s response to the protest in Washington, DC was based in fear. Many government leaders believed a riot would arise from the protests (Wikipedia). 20,000 soldiers were prepared for military occupation of the capital if the campaign became a threat (Wikipedia).

Many people were impacted positively during the duration of the march. A demonstrator named Gloria Arellanes said “I always told people, I learned more about people on that march than eve. I saw so many things, and observed so many things” (Mantler). As a result of participating in this movement, Arellanes got involved in other movements such as the Chicano movement (Mantler). This is significant because this campaign inspired others to get involved in more political campaigns to further change. There is a lot of distanciation associated with the memory of the original march. People seem to remember Martin Luther King Jr and his ties to the organization but there isn’t much to find about the actual event. When researching, it was difficult to find personal recounts of the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC in 1968. The narratization and use of MLK’s words from that time is also significant when analyzing this event. The Poor People’s Campaign is still an organization and it uses the memory of 1968 and Martin Luther King Jr to further its narrative for support. On the website, the organization asks for monetary donations to help their campaign. It does not list any physical demonstrations that could happen. From the news articles tagged on the website, it seems like the organization was just brought back. This is interesting and shows the processual aspect of memory. For a while, the organization strayed away from its purpose and was not participating in as much activism as they could’ve. It shows how people’s interests change over time and start to leave behind movements that were significant in the past when these problems seemed to be more pressing. Overall, the Poor People’s Campaign was a part of the memories of 1968 through its demonstration in Washington, DC.


Cho, Nancy. “Poor People’s Campaign (December 4, 1967 – June 19, 1968).” Black Past, www.blackpast.org/aah/poor-peoples-campaign-december-4-1967-june-19-1968.

“Dr. King’s Vision: The Poor People’s Campaign of 1967-68.” Poor People’s Campaign, www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/index.php/poor-peoples-campaign-1968/.

Franklin, Ben A. “5,000 Open Poor People’s Campaign in Washington.” The New York Times, 13 May 1968, search.proquest.com/docview/118419419/27B41A50A52E49EBPQ/1?accountid=14244.

Houston, Robert. “Constructing Tents. Resurrection City, Washington, D.C.” Smithsonian, Washington, DC, 1968, www.si.edu/exhibitions/city-of-hope-resurrection-city-and-the-1968-poor-peoples-campaign-6267.

Mantler, Gordon K. “Grassroots Voices, Memory, and the Poor People’s Campaign.” American Public Media, americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/king/mantler.html.

“Poor People’s Campaign.” Milwaukee Star, 30 Mar. 1968, infoweb.newsbank.com/iw-search/we/HistArchive/?p_product=EANX&p_theme=ahnp&p_nbid=E66W56ERMTUyNDE5ODYyOS42NTg5MTU6MToxNDoxNTIuMjMuMjM5LjIzOA&p_action=doc&d_viewref=search&s_lastnonissuequeryname=4&p_queryname=4&p_docnum=1&p_docref=v2:12A7AE31A7B3CA6B@EANX-12CCE7D521B39428@2439946-12CCE7D52904F230@0-12CCE7D578EF0ED8@Poor People’s Campaign.

“Poor People’s Campaign.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Apr. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poor_People’s_Campaign.

Wright, Amy Nathan. “Labour, Leisure, Poverty and Protest: the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign as a Case Study.” Leisure Studies, vol. 27, no. 4, 14 Oct. 2008, pp. 443–458. Taylor & Francis Online, doi:10.1080/02614360802456964.

Author: Alex Simpson

SOP-Eshelman Inst for Innov

4 thoughts on “Poor People’s Campaign”

  1. I liked how you used statistics in the beginning of your post to quantify both the problem that the campaign worked to address and the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign to address poverty and inequality. I also found the your discussion of the Resurrection City monument to symbolize the Poor People’s Campaign to be interesting. I would suggest adding subheadings to better transition between topics and not citing Wikipedia as a source.

  2. I am really impressed by the magnitude of this movement and how so many people were impacted by it. One thought that I had; how will the memory of this march change for people like Gloria as time progresses. Will this memory be processual and will she forget what she learned as she becomes distanced from the event?

  3. I really like that you chose a topic that has such importance, but has not be widely publicized unlike other events and marches. I really like your use of specific facts such as the 500,000 low-cost housing units. I think that can help the reader truly get the magnitude of the event and imagine its impact, although we obviously were not there. It’s important to remember the events that have mainly been lost in our memory throughout the years, and I think you did a great job at that.

  4. I really enjoyed reading your post. I think your topic was really interesting. I liked how your included the positive and negative information about “Resurrection City”. Your links to the information in class were great. I like how at the end of your post you noted the fact that the movements today have different interest because it made me think about the difference between today and 1968.

Comments are closed.