Class Resurrection:

The Poor People's Campaign of 1968 and Resurrection City

There go my people-I must catch up with them, for I am their leader.-Mohandas Gandhi

   Reverend Ralph Abernathy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) successor to the slain Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began the Poor People's Campaign of 1968 with the proclamation that "the poor are no longer divided. We are not going to let the white man put us down anymore. It's not white power, and I'll give you some news, it's not black power, either. It's poor power and we're going to use it."1 The Poor People's Campaign (PPC) was a convergence of racial and economic concerns that brought the poor, including those who were black, white, Indian, and Hispanic to live in shantytowns and demonstrate daily in Washington, D.C. from May 14 until June 24, 1968. The PPC was conceived by Dr. Martin Luther King, but, unfortunately, was not led by him. Dr. King was murdered on April 4, 1968 while campaigning with striking garbage workers in Memphis, Tennessee. His death helped to ensure that the Poor People's Campaign would be a failure. In Dr. King's stead, Reverend Ralph Abernathy, King's longtime friend and SCLC's vice president, led and organized the PPC. While the press criticized Abernathy and the SCLC executive staff for their poor management of the campaign, other contributing factors to the campaign's demise remain unexamined.2 The failure of the Poor People's Campaign extended beyond questions of leadership and tactics. Ultimately, the PPC failed because the traditional constituency of the Civil Rights movement -- the white, middle-class, liberals -- was repulsed by the goals of the campaign itself. Bringing the poor together as a racial amalgamation of similar interests and goals heightened the issue of class in America and, consequently, Americans came to view the Civil Rights movement as an instrument questioning the legitimacy of America's economic system and its capitalistic "way of life."3

    The failure of the Poor People's Campaign to win substantial anti-poverty legislation does not, however, deny its historical importance. On the contrary, its failure holds the key to its significance. Journalists who covered the campaign failed to notice that the PPC's incorporation of class issues and economic goals caused a change in the perception of the Civil Rights movement among white, middle-class, liberals. Similarly, current Civil Rights scholarship has largely ignored the Poor People's Campaign, treating it only as an afterthought and an epilogue to a dwindling Civil Rights movement. The PPC's first chronicler, Charles Fager, bolstered the popular opinion among the press that the PPC failed because of Abernathy's inept leadership. While the conventional wisdom is correct that "a basic restructuring of the relationship between SCLC and its white liberal constituency was probably inevitable upon Abernathy's elevation," shouldering Abernathy with the campaign's failure falls short of a full understanding of the PPC and its effect on the Civil Rights movement. Although Abernathy may have been, as campaign chronicler Charles Fager has argued, "a blurred and less-refined echo of his Atlanta mentor," Martin Luther King, the PPC failed because of its economic goals as much as its management.4 Had King survived his assassin's bullet, he might have found that the lofty goals of the PPC were incongruous with the continuation of white, liberal, middle-class support.

   Historian Geoffrey Hodgson found that the success of the 1963 Civil Rights march in Washington, D.C. depended on the base of a "liberal consensus" comprising both blue-collar labor democrats and a collection of liberal intellectuals and press, policy makers, progressive minded businessmen, church leaders, and students. Hodgson described the philosophy of this "liberal consensus" as the belief that "American capitalism was a revolutionary force for social change, that economic growth was supremely good because it obviated the need for redistribution and social conflict, that class had no place in American politics."5 Hodgson argued that in 1963 the Civil Rights movement was still in agreement with the ideals of the "liberal consensus:"

At the time of the March on Washington, in August 1963, the Civil Rights movement was still seen as the culminating affirmation of the liberal faith... There was nothing in the movement's ideas, at that stage, that contradicted liberal orthodoxy, and its aims were championed by the whole breadth of the liberal consensus: White House, labor, churches, intellectuals, and the more modern-minded sectors of business. Its goal was to integrate black people more closely into white society. In the fall of 1963, it was still generally thought that this could be done without challenging white society, as a consequence, in any way.6

By 1968, however, the PPC's march on Washington incorporated economic goals of class-based equality that fractured and challenged the ideology of the "liberal consensus." The result was that the "liberal consensus" that supported King in 1963 rebuffed the PPC's efforts in 1968.

   By examining the Poor People's Campaign as an attempted class rather than racial movement, this work intends to substantiate Professor Manning Marable's contention that "effective power is never exercised solely by a single race, but by a dominant social class. Thus Black political movements are simultaneously movements that seek to restructure or radically transform class relations."7 In order to evaluate the PPC as an attempted class-based movement, this work focuses on the involvement of the campaign's non-African American minorities.

   The purpose of the following essay is threefold. The first is to show that the inclusion of Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and poor white Appalachian people marked the change of the Civil Rights movement from goals of racial equality to ideas of economic change and confrontation. Of course, white liberals and other minorities had previously participated in the Civil Rights movement, but never before had the concerns of non-African American minorities been incorporated into the actual goals of the movement itself. The inclusion of other minorities into the Poor People's Campaign signaled the end of the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of a prolonged fight for an expanded welfare system.

   The second purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that by 1968 African Americans were left with the choice between "black power" to create a more separate and empowered black community or integration through the inter-racial movement of poor people to achieve a new socioeconomic policy in the United States. Stokely Carmichael, co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and proponent of "black power," commented that the difference between SCLC and SNCC was between "mobilizing versus organizing." As Hodgson has concluded "to mobilize meant to rely, in the last analysis, on white help. To organize meant to stand or fall by what black people could do for themselves."8 Therefore, the "mobilizing" philosophy of the SCLC depended on white, liberal, middle-class support for the PPC. When that support failed to materialize, the PPC failed as a movement. The result was that without King and without white, liberal, middle-class support, the PPC inadvertently served as notice to the black community that integration had not worked. Thus, with King gone and the PPC a failure, the SCLC lost credibility as the forefront Civil Rights organization causing the black community to lose its primary organizational alternative to "black power."

   The essay's third purpose is to demonstrate that the campaign's economic goals of wealth redistribution fractured the Civil Rights movement's traditional, liberal, white, middle-class constituency. Historian Scott Sandage enthusiastically claimed that the Civil Rights movement succeeded by using the image and national memory of Abraham Lincoln to create "an inter-racial politics of memory, placing blacks at the center of the American story by juxtaposing them with its noblest hero." In the process, the Civil Rights movement was able to "successfully portray their adversary as un-American."9 The Poor People's Campaign of 1968, however, contributed to the failure of the Civil Rights movement precisely because it attempted to embrace class solidarity while advocating economic goals that conflicted with the value of American capitalism. Therefore, the PPC, not its adversaries, was ultimately seen as "un-American."

Leftward Movements and the Discovery of Poverty

     Since the Meredith Mississippi March in 1966, the slogan "black power" had become a distinct philosophy in contrast to King's earlier ideas of integration. But as early as 1965, the issues of the Vietnam War and growing black frustration within the movement due to a perceived stagnation of goals and progress confounded King and the SCLC staff. On March 2, 1965, President Lyndon Baines Johnson launched Operation Rolling Thunder, the bombing of North Vietnam. That same day, at a speech given at Howard University, King for the first time openly questioned U.S. policy in Vietnam calling for a negotiated settlement. King, however, was cautious and did not fully rebuke U.S. efforts in Southeast Asia. The Civil Rights leader did not want to provoke Johnson's ire on the war for fear that the Johnson Administration might turn against the Civil Rights movement. Whitney Young, director of the Urban League, heeded "Johnson needs a consensus. If we are not with him on Vietnam, then he is not going to be with us on Civil Rights."10 When SNCC publicly denounced the war in 1966, King neither supported their decision nor did he join the growing chorus of Civil Rights leaders condemning SNCC's proclamation. Young, for example, stated that the Urban League would renounce Civil Rights organizations that "formally adopted black power as a program, or which [tied] in domestic rights with the Vietnam conflict." Similarly, Roy Wilkins, director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), remarked that SNCC's position against the war labeled them "only one of many civil rights groups" and that their statement was "not the statement of other groups of what is loosely called the Civil Rights movement."11

   While King was slow to condemn the war in Vietnam, he did make progressive movements towards a militant position that coupled the war in Vietnam with social spending programs at home. By April 1966 King and the SCLC board passed a resolution condemning the war. At the SCLC annual convention in August the SCLC called for the immediate and unilateral desclation of the war. Even as King was moving against the war in Vietnam, he was simultaneously growing more concerned with the plight of the poor. During an SCLC strategy session in October 1966, King proposed three initiatives for the organization, one of which was the organization of America's impoverished towards a "crusade to reform society in order to realize economic and social justice." In November 1966, King told a Howard University audience that African Americans needed to confront "basic issues between the privileged and the underprivileged." King also supported Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph's 1966 "Freedom Budget" that asked for a guaranteed annual wage.12 King's movements against the war culminated with his April 4, 1967 speech, "Beyond Vietnam," at Riverside Church in New York City. Carmichael, one of the primary proponents of black power, remembered that King's "speech was very beautiful. I saw one of the reasons why I have a great deal of love and respect for King was his love for the people and consequently his honesty... He used words in that speech that I could never use. I mean, if I were to use those words I would be dismissed as irresponsible. But he said, 'The United States government is one of the greatest purveyors of violence in the world today.'"13 By 1967 King had concluded that ending America's war in Vietnam was a moral imperative. Similarly, by 1967 King also began to link the U.S. war in Vietnam with a need for a real "war on poverty" at home.

Origin, Tactics, and Goals of the PPC

   On December 4, 1967, King announced the Poor People's Campaign by declaring "America is at a crossroads of history, and it is critically important for us, as a nation and a society, to chose a new path and move upon it with resolution and courage. It is impossible to underestimate the crisis we face in America. The stability of civilization, the potential of free government, and the simple honor of men are at stake."14 King used the same kind of apocalyptic language when he described the motivation behind the Poor People's Campaign in his final article in Look.

We intend, before the summer comes, to initiate a 'last chance' project to arouse the American conscience toward constructive democratic change. The nation has been warned by the President's Commission (on Civil Disorders) that our society faces catastrophic division in an approaching doomsday if the country does not act. We have, through this non-violent action, an opportunity to avoid a national disaster and to create a new spirit of harmony.15

   King's call for a poor people's campaign based on integration and militant confrontation while remaining non-violent was a conscious effort to distance the Civil Rights movement from the separatism of the growing "black power" movement. Carmichael charged in 1966 that "integration speaks not at all to the problem of blackness. Integration today means the man who 'makes it,' leaves his black brothers behind in the ghetto as fast as his new sports car will take him. It has no relevance to the Harlem wino or to the cottonpicker making three dollars a day."16 King, on the other hand, hoped that the PPC would reunite the Civil Rights' struggle for integration and reignite the power of non-violence.

   Immediately, however, members of the liberal press began to articulate their discontent with the notion of a "poor people's campaign." The day after King's announcement, a New York Times editorial critically argued that,

Like the threat to 'close down' Federal induction centers, Dr. Martin Luther King's plan to seek 'massive dislocation' of the national capital violates the principles of responsible protest. Dr. King insists that the massive civil disobedience campaign he plans in Washington next April will be nonviolent. But his proclaimed goal of massive dislocation belies Dr. King's profession of peaceful intent. If such a result were achieved, by whatever means, it would probably involve some overt violence and it would certainly violate the rights of thousands of Washingtonians and the interests of millions of Americans. This is one more case in which the means are not justified by the end.17

King's vision for his campaign required confrontational tactics that many believed would end as his own personal "Waterloo." Jack Nelson, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times News Service, reflected after King's death that "The Campaign sorely misses Dr. King. Not that he necessarily could have pulled it off. In fact, had he not been assassinated, the campaign may well have been his Waterloo, as some civil rights leaders predicted."18

    King understood, however, that a multi-racial poor people's movement aimed at a redistribution of America's wealth might prove more difficult to build than the non-violent Civil Rights movement used to end legal segregation in the South. While promoting the campaign's cause, King admitted "It was easier to integrate lunch counters than to eradicate slums. It didn't cost anything to integrate lunch counters. Now we are talking about something that will cost billions and billions of dollars."19 To accomplish his goal of economic redistribution for the poor, King argued that "timid supplication for justice will not solve the problem. We've got to confront the power structure massively."20

   The PPC, as planned by King, equated ending the war in Vietnam with creating a successful "war on poverty" at home. Jose Yglesias in his 1968 interview asked both King and Andrew Young, a longtime lieutenant to King, why the need for a "poor people's campaign?" Young stated that "until now the main objectives of the civil rights movement had been ones that most benefited middle-class Negroes. The people who marched in the demonstrations and got beaten to desegregate restaurants and hotels can't take advantage of those gains. They can't afford them. Now these people are saying, 'What about us?'" 21 Young also equated the 1963 march with the proposed Poor People's Campaign and determined that, "In a sense, this is to be a war-a war without violence. It isn't going to be a Sunday-school picnic like the '63 March on Washington. . . Something is going to change or we'll all be in jail. This is do or die-not just for nonviolence but for the nation-and we'll do whatever necessary to open the economic doors of this nation for the poor."22 Ysglesias wrote that, "King explained that although the cost to the nation of wiping out poverty had not been reduced to a dollar figure, the war in Vietnam-'this unjust and immoral war,' as he always characterizes it-cannot be waged if the campaign's demands are met."23 Therefore, as King's political tendencies were heading leftward, he equated the war in Vietnam with a real "war on poverty."24 While many Americans opposed the Vietnam War without equating it to issues of class and poverty, King believed that there was an intrinsic relationship between the federal expenditure on an "immoral war" and the lack of funds spent on Lyndon Johnson's "war on poverty."

    Although King grounded his reasons for the campaign on moral issues, he did acknowledge that it would require older ideas of class conflict. "In a sense, you could say we are engaged in a class struggle, yes. It will be a long and difficult struggle, for our program calls for a redistribution of economic power," said King. "Yet this isn't a purely materialistic or class concern. I feel that this movement in behalf of the poor is the most moral thing-it is saying that every man is an heir to a legacy of dignity and worth." Yet, when Yglesias recounted the inclusion of other minorities, he declared to King, "You can't say you're in civil rights any longer," and King responded with a smile, "But you can say I am in human rights."25

   The creation of a pan-racial coalition of poor people that incorporated the goals of other minorities represented a strategic departure for King. With the initiation of the PPC, the SCLC moved beyond civil rights for African Americans, and more towards ideas of economic relief for all impoverished Americans. "This is no longer a civil rights thing," commented Reverend James Bevel, a SCLC executive staff member. "This is economic. We intend to force the power structure of this country to divert more energy -- and by that I mean money -- into getting 40,000,000 Americans into this nation's economic mainstream."26 Reflecting on the purposes and designs of the campaign, Reverend Hosea Williams, the PPC's "political action" director, remarked,

We will never get free by eliminating racism or bringing about integration. If black people were able to eliminate every aspect of racism and integrate every aspect of American life, we would not be free. Black folks will never be free until we have our fair share of the economy. We live not in a political society, nor in a social society, nor a religious society, we live in an economic society. So we had to launch a movement to gain our fair share of the economy.27

   The completion of Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign had three central phases. First, the SCLC would organize several thousand people representing different racial backgrounds to live in a highly visible shantytown, followed by daily demonstrations and a mass march similar to the historic 1963 Civil Rights march on Washington, D.C. The second phase would include mass arrests throughout the Capital. The third phase was envisioned as a national economic boycott of America's most powerful corporations. Throughout the three phases of the campaign, it was hoped that Robert Kennedy's bid for the presidential democratic nomination would bolster the efforts of the Poor People's Campaign. After all, it was Bobby Kennedy who, according to Marian Wright Eldeman, told Martin Luther King to "bring the poor people to Washington." As Eldeman, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and personal friend of King, recalled her August 1967 meeting with King:

He [King] was real down that day when I walked in, sitting in his office, and he was like everybody at that time -- Kennedy and me and all of us concerned about the poor and what was happening to civil rights and the country turning away from it, about what we were going to do next. And I told him that Bobby Kennedy said he ought to bring the poor people to Washington. And as simply as Bobby had said it, King instinctively felt that that was right and treated me as if I was an emissary of grace here, or something that brought him some sight. Out of that, the Poor People's Campaign was born.28

   The tactics of the Poor People's Campaign were new ones for the Civil Rights movement. Although the SCLC's Operation Breadbasket relied upon local boycotting tactics, the PPC was the Civil Rights movement's first planned national boycott against America's largest corporations and businesses.29 Furthermore, the creation of a multi-racial coalition of poor people that incorporated the goals of other minorities was a new effort for SCLC. By focusing on poverty as opposed to de-segregation, King went beyond traditional issues of adequate political representation and constitutionality to issues of greater economic equality and opportunity.

   Additionally, the SCLC purposefully designed broad legislative goals so that the PPC would act as a highly symbolic gesture to create a massive outpouring of sympathy from America's middle class. The hope was that the Poor People's Campaign would simultaneously challenge the U.S. war effort in Vietnam and U.S. spending priorities at home. Michael Harrington, author of The Other America and confident to King, recalled King's dilemma in regards to the goals of the PPC.

And it struck me that Dr. King was very pessimistic and deeply disturbed at the way things were going. On the one hand, he was being increasingly attacked from with the black movement. There was a surge of nationalism. The Black Panthers had begun to come on the scene. There was SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. There had been a turn away from nonviolence, so he was being attacked for being too much of a pacifist. Too namby-pamby On the other hand, he was being attacked by Lyndon Johnson, and even by the Hubert Humphrey liberals, for going too far to the left. For being in the antiwar movement Within that context, we talked about the Poor People's Campaign. In a sense, the Poor People's Campaign was certainly no repudiation by Dr. King of his opposition to the war, but it was an attempt to then go back and refocus on basics, and perhaps more importantly, to mobilize a mass movement.30

Confronted by the rising popularity of "black power" and "black nationalism," King created the PPC and wagered that the Civil Rights tactics of non-violence and integration would not crash on the shoals of economic confrontation. "King knows that he is subjugating himself to his most severe test," wrote Milton Viorst in a February 1968 Washingtonian article. "Assailed from both sides, he is nonetheless proposing a grandiose program, that could succeed mightily or collapse ignominiously. Some may chose to scoff, but Washington can scarcely afford to dismiss the possibility that he will meet the test decisively."31

Freedom Roads

   The Poor People's Campaign was a national event incorporating the poor from across the country. The campaign canvassed the nation, traveling to Washington, D.C. in buses, cars, trains, and even an old fashioned mule train. All told, the PPC maintained nine different caravans, namely the "Eastern Caravan," the "Appalachia Trail," the "Southern Caravan," the "Midwest Caravan," the "Indian Trail," the "San Francisco Caravan," the "Western Caravan," and finally the "Mule Train" and the "Freedom Train."

   The "Eastern Caravan," containing some 800 people, reached Washington, D.C. in mid-May after stopping in seven cities and picking up some 200 Puerto Ricans in New York City. The "Appalachia Trail" caravan had poor whites and African Americans from largely rural regions. The Appalachian participants came primarily from Tennessee, Kentucky, southwest Virginia, and West Virginia. The "Southern Caravan" worked its way through the deep South, covering a total of 13 major cities and included Mexican Americans and poor white southerners. The "Western Caravan" included Mexican Americans from Los Angeles and Indians from New Mexico and Oklahoma. The "Indian Trail" began in Seattle, Washington and headed northeast stopping in Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota. The collecting of poor people across the nation was done in the hope of incorporating a true all-American representation. A geographical map of the routes of all the caravans can be found on the following page in Figure I. 


Figure I: Freedom Roads, Daily Worker


   Blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Indians described their reasons for embracing the campaign similarly. The phrases most often used were "for better job and home," "for better education," "for civil rights and job," and "for freedom." One applicant form, filled out by Mrs. Mahalia Keys, read simply, "For Better!"32 The income of the applicants ranged from $1.25 an hour to nothing. Very few applications maintained a wage exceeding the federal minimum.33 Henrietta Franklin, an African American farm wife from Mississippi, implored:

I'm here because when I was a child, I got taken out of school and put to work on the farm helping my family. They didn't pay us in money, but in food, in the crops so we could eat. Then I got married and had kids, and my husband worked in the cotton fields in season and fixing cars and trucks and stuff. But he got sick and don't work much no more and there ain't hardly no cotton to get picked by hand anyway... So I came here with the Campaign to tell people that we got to be treated like human beings-that we have a right to live because we've earned the right but we've yet to be paid.34

Buck Maggard, a white Appalachian volunteer and organizer of the PPC, revealed that he became involved in the campaign because "even though sometimes we think we were white that we were free from all this exploitation. But growing up I felt like I was exploited just as much as black people was. My father was a coal miner and we didn't always have money. I always felt like I was being discriminated against also, not because I was black, but because I was poor. I guess I felt like I had a lot in common with poor black people."35 Cleofes Vigil, a 51-year old Mexican-American from Taos, New Mexico, wanted the newsmen to understand that "We can churn our own butter if we have elbow room to do it. But the big companies and the Federal Government are taking our land from us and fencing us in like a concentration camp."36 Rafael Duran, a 67-year old Hispanic, explained a generational legacy of protest that culminated with the Poor People's Campaign. "Since I was a kid, my grandfather used to tell me how we were robbed of land by the U.S. government," said Duran. "I was always looking for a way to come to Washington to get it back. It was taken by fraud."37 Dempsey Price, an African American coal miner from Chicago, explained that "You can't put the reasons why people are here down on paper. They're just not reducible to paper and ink. My whole life is bound up in this thing."38

   While the press sometimes sympathized with the plight of the poor and their reasons for coming to Washington, they often, however, questioned the goals of the campaign. In a Washington Post editorial, the first arrivals to Washington, D.C. were greeted by the city's largest newspaper as if perhaps the "liberal" cause might be better served if the campaign were to go somewhere else. "Would more Americans better understand the plight of the rural and urban poor if, through the eyes of their press and their government spokesman, they visited the poison spots of poverty, instead of bringing representatives of these regions into the Capitol?," stated the Washington Post. "Let us have a march, by all means. But why not turn it around and have its route run from Washington to where the poverty is, instead of from where the poverty is to Washington?"39 Similarly, in an Atlanta Journal and Constitution editorial entitled "Is Poverty March Worthwhile?," columnist Doreen Roy questioned the necessity of PPC's existence.

 A glance at the want ads, a talk with personnel managers at large and small corporations, bear out an unpleasant truth: there IS work. There is hope. There is a future for most of these hard-core poverty-stricken. But it requires effort. And I can't help wondering how much good this 'march' could have accomplished if its participants had marched to their nearest employment agency instead of to our nation's capital. 40

    In rejecting the Campaign, the press had garnered support among American whites. A June 10, 1968 Washington Post article reported that the Louis Harris national survey found that only 29% of whites favored the march while 61% of them opposed it. With opposite results, the Harris survey found that 80% of African Americans favored the march while only 11% opposed it.41 No wonder, then, that Newsweek felt at liberty to proclaim, "There remained no reason to believe that Resurrection City would necessarily succeed even as a spectacle, let alone as a pragmatic lobbying mission. . . this Poor People's Campaign was fueled on faith, run on spontaneity verging sometimes on the whimsical and pointed towards goals too impossibly grand to be won."42 Columnist Richard Wilson, writing in the Evening Sun on May 1 was even more direct when he blasted not only their arrival, but the very idea of a poor people's march. "The march was poorly conceived from the beginning. Its objectives are not clearly spelled out," charged the Evening Sun. "Its potential for harm is probably greater than for good."43 Thus, for a nation so seemingly concerned with poverty issues on Capitol Hill, it also appeared that the press became unhappy when the real manifestation of that poverty showed up on the Capitol lawn.


Conditions of Resurrection City

   As described by Dr. James Farmer, founder and former head of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the Poor People's Campaign was "a flop."44 It brought 2,600 people to Washington, D.C. to live for almost six weeks, from May 14 to June 24, in shantytowns named "Resurrection City." The camp's spirits were dampened as rain poured down for twenty-eight of the forty-two days of its duration. Ben W. Gilbert of the Washington Post described the miserable living conditions of Resurrection City: 

The grassy parkland turned to trampled mud, ankle-deep, with some puddles of water hip-deep. The plywood homes were soaked. Washed clothes would not dry. Dampness and surprisingly low temperatures for May and June chilled the nights. Mud seeped in everywhere. Moving from place to place meant sloshing around in water and mud. Trash, rotting food, discarded clothing, packing boxes, cans, and liquor bottles slowly sank into the mud throughout the encampment. Huge oil drums, crammed with refuse, burned day and night. Their smoky stench carried all the way downtown and through the surrounding parkland and Mall area.45



Photo I: Resurrection City, Aerial View; Oliver Atkins Collection, George Mason University, Folder 91, Sheet 4, Frame 22

    While the participants of the PPC lived in the muddied shantytowns of Resurrection City (RC), Reverend Abernathy stayed at the Pitts Hotel in Washington, an upscale African American establishment. The press often criticized Abernathy for staying at the Pitts Hotel. Even today, Abernathy's hypocrisy resonates among Civil Rights leaders. Dr. James Farmer recalled that during his own visit to Resurrection City, the Reverend Abernathy "pulled up in a big Cadillac, chauffeur driven, and he didn't get out. It was muddy out. People were ankle deep in mud, and Abernathy didn't want to dirty his shoes."46

    Yet, "Resurrection City, USA," as its residents liked to call it, was a source of pride for many of the campaign's impoverished participants. Resurrection City was built by a professor of architecture and maintained a city hall, a dispensary, a dining tent, a "Poor People's University," a cultural ("Soul Center") tent, a psychiatrist, and even its own zip code. The grounds of the city were sprawled out along 15 acres of West Potomac Park, running across the Reflecting Pool to the base of the Lincoln Memorial. The parkland permit was some six pages long and prohibited the entrance of the U.S. Park Police. The SCLC insured that Resurrection 


Photo II: General Conditions of Resurrection City, Plumbing, Oliver Atkins Collection, Folder 91, Sheet 2, Frame 9.

 City maintained its own internal policing force, which soon gained a notorious reputation for aggressiveness among the local and national press.47 The total number of participants traveling to Washington, D.C. originally numbered some 3,000 people. The length of time that the participants remained in Resurrection City varied because the city's population was of a transitory nature. Its voluntary participants earned no wages while at the city and many came and went in accordance with their own personal needs. While some left the campaign within its first two weeks, others remained for the city's full six-week duration. The estimated number of people in the encampment throughout the city's existence ranged between 2,600 and 3,000 people. Of course, many more poor people arrived for the June 19 "Solidarity Day," which brought a total of 50,000 to march on Washington. Throughout its six-week duration, the participants of RC engaged in daily demonstrations against and discussions with various government agencies and officials. The campaign culminated with the June 19, 1968 "Solidarity Day" march to the Lincoln Memorial. Shortly following the "Solidarity Day" march, however, the number remaining in Resurrection City dwindled to less than 300.

   Resurrection City, USA was finally closed on the morning of June 24, 1968 by some 1,000 policemen following two evenings of riots, near-riots, and the release of police dogs and over 1,000 tear gas grenades. In the end, the police arrested 175 people including Reverend Abernathy. There were also 81 arrests for curfew violations, 60 for disorderly conduct or drunkenness, 10 for looting, and 3 for assaulting a policeman. The campaign's goals for the poor were never achieved and the PPC was quickly dubbed a dismal failure, what Bill Rutherford, executive director of SCLC, called the "Little Bighorn" of the Civil Rights movement.48 Since its demise, historians have paid the Poor People's Campaign and Resurrection City scant attention and its story has been largely relegated to journalists.

Labor and the Poor People's Campaign

    Dr. King hoped that the Poor People's Campaign would become a focal point for the continuation of the Negro-Labor alliance. 49 Enlisting support from the major national labor organizations proved difficult, however, because the PPC equated domestic poverty with the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. King understood that seeking the assistance of national labor for an expansion of welfare and for the end of the Vietnam War was an unlikely crusade. Despite the inherent difficulties associated with labor and the goals of the PPC, King knew that a campaign for the poor desperately needed support from America's labor unions. Thus, King spoke in Chicago at the National Labor Leadership Assembly for Peace on November 27, 1967. King criticized organized labor for its support of the war in Vietnam when "tens of thousands of Americans" opposed it. Historian Philip Foner wrote that Dr. King then "declared that resolutions in favor of programs designed to combat poverty were of little value as long as labor continued to give uncritical backing to the Administration's war policies."50

   Despite organized labor's reluctance to support King's efforts against the war, the Civil Rights leader continued to lend his support to labor. As he was preparing for the PPC, King received and accepted the appeal from Memphis, Tennessee to assist in a strike of 1,200 garbage workers who were mostly African Americans. Before embarking on his final crusade which ended in his assassination, King told the Negro American Labor Council delegates that the African American and labor alliance must continue to fight together for the end of the "deteriorating economic and social condition of the Negro community . . . heavily burdened with both unemployment and underemployment, flagrant job discrimination, and the injustice of unequal educational opportunity."51 King ended his message with the statement, "From the Deep South we grasp your hand in fellowship."52

    The proposed PPC, however, did not establish the "fellowship" with national labor as King had hoped. National labor support for the PPC was mixed. The largest union, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organization (AFL-CIO), rejected the PPC while Walter Reuther of the United Auto Workers supported the campaign wholeheartedly. In December 1967, shortly following the campaign's announcement, George Meany, the president of the AFL-CIO, addressed the organization's seventh convention. "We have all heard the phony argument that the war in Vietnam uses up so much of our resources and so strains our national budget that the great-unfinished work of our vital domestic programs must be cut back or set aside until the war is over," declared Meany. "So when you hear the summer soldiers calling for retreat in the war on poverty and human deprivation in America or in the defense of freedom in Vietnam, don't let them tell you that we cannot afford one or the other. We can and must bear the cost of both."53 While Meany supported the continued economic fight against poverty, he failed to rebuke the U.S. effort in Vietnam and, thus, the AFL-CIO never reconciled itself with the efforts of the Poor People's Campaign. The AFL-CIO continued throughout the campaign to deny its support even in the face of advocacy from labor's largest newspaper, The Daily Worker. "Organized labor has a tremendous stake in the Poor People's Campaign, and the National March of the Poor initiated by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference," opined an editorial from the staff of The Daily Worker. " The self-interest of the AFL-CIO and independent unions requires all-out support of these actions."54 In rejecting the PPC's call for a guaranteed income, one anonymously quoted "high official" of the AFL-CIO stated in the New York Times that "support for this kind of plan just doesn't exist and couldn't exist in a work-oriented culture."55 The contrasting view of America as a "work-oriented culture" versus a "welfare-orientated culture" was an additional reason why the AFL-CIO neither publicly endorsed nor financially supported the Poor People's Campaign.

   The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) files on the SCLC reveal that Bill Rutherford and Stanley Levinson, both long-time lieutenants of King, had discussed labor's tepid support of the campaign. Apparently, the Union in Memphis-the one that King had fought for just prior to his assassination -- refused to donate a SCLC request of $10,000 towards the PPC. In regards to the Union's reluctance to support the campaign, the FBI files report that, "Levinson said he would put this task before all the Unions and threaten them that they (SCLC) will make public the fact that while other people have been giving, the group that Martin Luther King gave his life for, did next to nothing. Levinson said they (the Unions) should be told that they must come up with two hundred and fifty thousand collectively."56 The vast national support of labor that Levinson and Stanley had hoped to coerce never arrived. As The Wall Street Journal reported, "most national unions and the AFL-CIO avoid taking a stand on the campaign, [while] some locals offer varied help."57

   Those unions that did offer support to the campaign included mostly small local unions and two national labor organizations. The PPC's goal to create 2.4 million jobs over four years won support from the United Steelworkers of America. "In a very dramatic and, I hope, successful way, they are petitioning their elected representatives to act favorably upon this bill," union president I.W. Abel told a senate labor subcommittee. "To that petitioning, I join the voice of the United Steelworkers of America."58 Walter Reuther, president of the UAW, spoke during the PPC's "Solidarity Day" march and was an outspoken advocate for the campaign's goals for the poor. In May, during the earliest stages of the campaign, Reuther charged that the federal government could close "tax loopholes" and collect nearly $21 million for programs for the poor and the cities. Reuther, addressing the opening session of the UAW's 23rd constitutional convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, declared that America must develop a fiscal policy that would assist the unemployed while also raising the wages of the lower classes. "Answers must be found either in an income policy that bears even-handedly upon all forms of income in order to hold down costs or in equitable tax measures," Reuther suggested. "There is enough to raise the incomes of all poor families above the poverty level with billions left over to cure the sickness of our cities."59 Similarly, on June 23 Reuther urged the Secretary of Agriculture, Orville L. Freeman, to release $500,000,000 worth of food to the nation's poor through food stamps and an expansion of the federal school lunch program.

   Local labor organization support included the efforts of Teamsters' Vice President Harold Gibbons who headed a committee to seek PPC funds from the Saint Louis-area unions. Additionally, the local union of the Washington Retail Clerks donated $400 while the Chicago-area locals of the Packinghouse Workers Union sent two busloads of members for the "Solidarity Day" march. There was also some strong labor support from New York City. The State, County and Municipal Employees Union announced that they would attempt to send a 2,000-member delegation, including nurses to staff medical aid stations. In addition, the New York branch of the American Federation of Teachers urged members to teach in "freedom schools" for the participants of Resurrection City.60

    Despite the local support from some labor unions, the lack of support from the AFL-CIO, America's largest labor union, contributed to the PPC's failure. The campaign's goal of ending the Vietnam War for economic redistribution to the poor tended to split and polarize labor organizations. Labor leaders like the AFL-CIO's George Meany objected to the campaign because they continued to cling to the post-War ideals of the "liberal consensus" -- a belief in solving economic problems through growth rather than redistribution and a belief in American dominance in world affairs. Thus, the PPC splintered the national labor support because of both its economic goals of redistribution and because of its position against the war in Vietnam.

Internal Political Representation at Resurrection City

    During the initial stages of Resurrection City's development, James Bevel, a SCLC executive staff member and leader at RC, provided the growing crowd his explanation of how politics ought to be run in the multi-racial/multi-ethnic city. "We will not have the kind of sick competitive elections like white folks, where you pit brothers against brothers and buyin' votes and schemin' and callin' that democracy," said Bevel. "Democracy's based on intelligence and self-respect and respect for other people. What we will do, we will let intelligence lead us."61 There were two levels of leadership in the PPC. The first was the SCLC executive staff staying at the Pits Hotel. The SCLC executive staff was composed of the Reverends Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, Hosea Williams, James Bevel, and Jesse Jackson. These men collectively determined the campaign's strategic goals and the logistics of the "Solidarity Day" march. Although the SCLC executive staff made the majority of decisions concerning the campaign, two elected bodies provided a kind of grass-roots political organization in Resurrection City.

   The first of these bodies was the Poor People's Organizing Convention. In the elections to the Poor People's Organizing Convention, the participants were to elect those who did not "own any real estate, stocks, bonds or other securities."62 The five different ethnic groups at RC were equally represented as African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, American Indians, and poor whites. The Convention then allowed each ethnic group to elect a spokesman. The five elected ethnic spokesmen were Hank Adams for American Indians, Corneilus Givens for African Americans, Reies Tijerina for Mexican Americans, Dionicie Paden for Puerto Ricans, and Ted Wulpert for poor whites.

   The second governing body elected by democratic means was the "Committee of 100." The committee representatives were popularly elected from each of the racial groups. The Appalachian activist Miles Horton observed "it was generally agreed that it was important for whites to be represented on all committees and in all demonstrations, and later, at press conferences" even though Appalachian whites made up a small part of RC.63 The inclusion of these poor, white, Appalachians is testament to the inclusiveness of the PPC at a time when proponents of "black power," such as CORE, were excluding white participation.

    The political representation process at RC was, however, as transitory as the involvement of its participants. Mike Clark, a white Appalachian volunteer who attended the campaign, criticized Resurrection City's political process as "chaotic" because

people were always moving in and out, of the campaign and the city, so the political process in RC was always very fluid, it was complete and total chaos. So you would have elected leaders and surrogates, people who would stand in for them. And depending on who was around, who was sick and who felt like going, you would have a constantly changing circle of people who would go to those meetings when they were held, and they weren't held very regularly.64

On the other hand, Clark also believed that the internal grass-roots leadership allowed for more class-based involvement. Even as he criticized the chaotic nature of the campaign, Clark still believed that the PPC's political demonstrations were drawn along class lines. "All the people engaged in leadership decisions, formally or informally, had the implicit acknowledgement all the time that this was a class problem. And that race and class were mixed in together," Clark said. "But if you're going to talk about a solution, it had to be a solution based on an analysis of class and not simply race."65 Buck Maggard, also an Appalachian participant of the campaign, stated that the political process was both democratic and inclusive in regards to race. "It was an incredibly grass-roots effort in politics. Leaders were developed by general agreement. A consensus," Maggard enthusiastically recalled. "The Committee planned daily demonstrations on a real democratic basis. We had included everybody's needs from blacks, to Indians, whites, and Mexicans."66 The decision-making in the campaign's day-to-day demonstrations often insured that the concerns of other ethnic peoples were aptly represented.

    Mike Clark judiciously summarized both his disappointment and his excitement about the results of the PPC with the statement that

More often than not, the SCLC seemed to have little direct effect on the radical education that took place. And that was probably a good thing, for if we are to learn anything from Resurrection City it will come from the residents and not from the SCLC staff who were often removed from the action inside their own city. . . . The poor people's ghetto evolved a way of life and a way of thinking which was independent of both official Washington and SCLC. It is this experience of living together that will sow the seeds of change in the students of Resurrection City.67

Thus, while there was disappointment among the various minority activists concerning the PPC's failure to win significant anti-poverty legislation, the participants were still part of a process that formed the beginnings of a "bottom-up" coalition. Despite the campaign's ultimate failure to produce anti-poverty legislation, it is important to note that the PPC attempted to create a democratic, grass-roots system of political representation as an alternative to the traditional politics of Washington, D.C.

Mexican-Americans, Native Americans, and Puerto Ricans

    On March, 7, 1968, King sent Reies Tijerina, leader of the Alianza Federal de Pueblos Libres (Alliance of Free City States), a telegram inviting his participation in the PPC. "The time to clearly present the case of poor people nationally draws near. . . May I request that you meet with me in a closed session at the Paschals Motor Inn, Hunter Street, Atlanta, Georgia, Thursday, March 14." 68 Tijerina's Alianza group was less interested in wealth redistribution, however, than in land redistribution and the collective bargaining rights for southwestern agricultural workers. Alianza's claims originated in the 1848 Treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo where they argued that the United States had appropriated certain tracts of land in New Mexico that by treaty belonged to the Mexican-Americans. In 1967, Tijerina lead a raid on the Tierra Amarilla County Courthouse, New Mexico to arrest officials that Alianza held responsible for withholding disputed land. 69 The ensuing result was an armed conflict between Alianza and the local police, giving Tijerina and Alianza national attention. Immediately, the press scrutinized the choice of Tijerina to represent Mexican-Americans in the PPC. The Santa Fe New Mexican editorial, "Tijerina: The Wrong Choice," pronounced the viewpoint that Tijerina's involvement "seems almost certain to lessen the prospects that the march will be a nonviolent one."70 In fairness to King, Caesar Chavez, a Chicano leader more inclined towards non-violent tactics, was invited to attend the campaign but could not attend due to his hunger strike as leader of the United Farm Worker labor movement in California. The selection of Tijerina, however, showed the SCLC's support for a movement that would incorporate other ethnic interests besides those of African Americans.





Photo III: A-Frame shacks at Resurrection City, A Hispanic Dwelling, Oliver Atkins Collection, George Mason University, Folder 91, Sheet 4, Frame 22



   Besides Tijerina, the Mexican-American contingent was represented by Bert Corona for California, Chris Tijerina (Reies Tijerina's son) for New Mexico, and Rodalfo "Corky" Gonzalez for Colorado. There were originally 1,000 Mexican-Americans who traveled from the states of California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona to attend the PPC.71 The Puerto Rican leaders included Grace Moore Newman and Haleong Valentine and the American Indians were represented through various tribal chiefs and representatives, including Till Walker and Mel Tom. There were approximately one to two hundred Puerto Ricans in Resurrection City and a similar number of American Indians. During the May 19, 1968 "Solidarity March," as many as three to five thousand Puerto Ricans arrived in Washington, D.C. from the northeastern cities of New York and Philadelphia.72 Like the African Americans and the Appalachians, the number of Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, and American Indian participants varied throughout the course of the six-week campaign.

   The Mexican-Americans and Native Americans brought to the campaign a different set of demands than the majority of the African American and Puerto Rican participants. Some of the more prominent Mexican-American demands centered on issues of culture and education. Rodolfo "Corky" Gonzales, head of the Colorado Mexican American contingent and leader of the Crusade for Justice, was a central figure demanding cultural change in America's education system. As part of the Poor People's Campaign, various demonstrations were held at several government institutions so that they might in the words of Ralph Abernathy, "turn things upside down, and rightside up." During a demonstration at the Office of Education, Gonzalez issued a series of demands that asked for the withholding of "federal funds to those school systems employing teachers, curriculum and textbooks which distort and/or omit the history, contributions and language of the Mexican-Americans."73 Other demands included compensation for psychological destruction to the identity of Mexican-Americans, a completely bi-lingual education system, and protection of cultural rights as guaranteed by the treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo. Richard Romero, of the Crusade for Justice, explained in bitter detail the reason for the Mexican-American demands in regards to America's education system. 

We do not believe that massive amounts of money will be the solution to the problems we now encounter -- that our people encounter in the Southwest. We feel that there has to be a renovation of the education system, to teach Mexican-American history and Afro-American history so that our children can have this pride about knowing who they are. Right now, the way that educational system is set up, not only do they deprive my children of knowing who they are, they also deprive their children of knowing who my children are. For example, to identify with being a Mexican-American, right now in the Southwest, is to identify with failure. The symbol of success in the educational system is the dollar, which is what you're taught, an Anglo figure -- the guy with blonde hair and blue eyes -- and we're not Anglos and we're poor, the majority of us, so therefore, our children suffer. When they go home, they even start rejecting their own parents because they're poor. Its just this big hang-up that they've made us out of history a failure.74

The specific Mexican American demands calling for cultural recognition were a local and ethnic concern. Their espousal by the SCLC, however, was part of a wider movement to make minority culture part and parcel of a larger, and new "American" ideology.

    Gonzalez also presented a more traditional list of demands akin to the national goals of the Poor People's Campaign as established by the SCLC. These demands centered on additional federal expenditure for housing, education, economic opportunities, job development, and a general redistribution of wealth through a guaranteed annual income.75 Again, demands in the campaign were purposefully listed as problems to be solved without providing the exact legislative solution. The press often questioned the need for the Mexican-American demands. For instance, the Washington Post quizzically remarked that "Anglo New Mexicans can not understand the discontent-in a state where a Spanish man can easily get a car loan with a $3,500-a-year salary, where housing integration is a reality, where a U.S. Senator is Spanish, a third of the State Police Spanish, half the state government Spanish."76

    The Mexican-Americans, the Indians, and some of the Appalachians did not actually live in Resurrection City but stayed instead at the Hawthorne School, a private experimental secondary school in southwest D.C. Charles Fager argued that Tijerina used the Mexican-American's physical separation at the Hawthorne School to gain "his share of the campaign leadership and the press."77 The Hawthorne School soon came to be symbolic of an internal split between Abernathy and Tijerina. Newspapers and political pundits saw the physical separation of these minorities as symbolic of inter-racial split throughout the campaign. Ernest Austin, the SCLC's organizer for Appalachia, commented on the situation of the Hawthorne School and acknowledged that some Appalachians were reluctant to live in the squalor of Resurrection City.

It wasn't that they were afraid of the mud or something because in Appalachia they live in that situation. It wasn't that they were afraid of the blacks, it's just what they saw of Resurrection City was -- let's face it, nothing but a city ghetto. In which you brought all the ghetto problems in. And none of them had been used to those problems. Now while they were poor and starving, you know a mountain cabin is a quarter mile or a mile away from another mountain cabin -- so for the Appalachian here is a mass of humanity packed in. And just that many people around them they'd never been in this kind of situation before.78

In the case of Tijerina, or as Gonzalez once referred to him, "T.V.-rina," the campaign may have sharpened racial issues rather than closed them.

   The issue of the Hawthorne School, however, is not so easily relegated as a space of racial contention. Instead, Michael Kline, a white Appalachian Volunteer (AV) who attended the campaign, was asked about his experiences at Resurrection City and immediately summoned up a very different picture of the Hawthorne School:

It was an incredible experience. It was at the Hawthorne School... 150 people from the region were there, a substantial number of black people were there, mostly from West Virginia, and we just slept on mattresses at the school, and mixed it up with people from the American Indian movement, Reies Tijerina was there, migrant workers from the South West, brown berets and the black panthers were there. Everybody just got along remarkably. Took care of each other. Got involved in prolonged dialogue to change the basic nature of our society. Building coalitions with other groups. It was dynamite.79

Similarly, Michael Clark stated emphatically that "I consider the Hawthorne School as important as what took place in Resurrection City, mostly because it was a successful multi-ethnic community, although the press did not know of it and gave little coverage to the school."80

   Although the separation of living quarters between African Americans and Mexican-Americans at the Hawthorne School is an example of racial conflict rather than class solidarity, it must be remembered that in the public arena the Mexican-Americans and the African Americans went to great lengths to show mutual support. On May 29, 1968, Abernathy and Tijerina jointly led a group of Native Americans to protest against the Supreme Court decision affirming limitations on Indian fishing rights in certain rivers of Washington State. The demonstration turned into a disaster as the participants began banging on the Supreme Court's doors demanding entrance and then smashing some of its windows. While the Native American demonstration failed to gain any of its demands, the groups of Puerto Ricans, Mexican-Americans, and Native Americans continued to work with each other in the encampment of RC. Mike Clark, an Appalachian volunteer and PPC participant, recalled that, "Yes, there were inter-racial problems in Resurrection City. However, many of the problems stemmed from the egos of Abernathy and Tijerina. The relationship we built with the Mexican-Americans, with Tijerina, continued beyond the campaign. It had a lasting effect and we continued to work with Mexican-Americans and others whom we had coordinated so closely with at Resurrection City."81

    Despite the split between Tijerina and Abernathy, the campaign continued its public pronouncements of racial solidarity. For instance, Gonzalez addressed the issue of incorporating the Mexican-American demands into the Civil Rights movement with the statement that "The Mexican-Americans come here to be part of the Poor People's Campaign. The issues they bring are not only poverty but such special problems as the rights of farm workers to organize along the border and the 'green card' system, along with freeing them of bondage to welfare."82 Reverend James Bevel, defending the PPC's multi-racial coalition, countered that "There are a lot of people who would like the question to remain one of race, because they would like to keep us away from the economic issues."83 While the campaign's class-based effort was marred by the break between Tijerina and Abernathy, it still retained its united effort towards bringing a change in America's socioeconomic policies.

White Appalachia

    The white Appalachia participants who came to the Poor People's Campaign publicized their own specific ethnicity while also exemplifying how they had become marginalized by the dominant society.84 The attendance of Appalachians at the Poor People's Campaign, perhaps more than any other race, also highlighted the issue of class. The connection between poverty and race brought poor white Appalachian people into the Civil Rights movement as a previously unrecognized minority. Thus, the inclusion of poor white southern peoples into the Poor People's Campaign is an historical exception to sociologists Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward's assessment that "if ever there were sectors of the working class that should have been 'the closest of allies,' as one critic complained, it was the black and white poor. But the institutional development of the United States had determined otherwise, as witness the history of failed efforts to produce multiracial class-based movements."85

   While popular contention maintains that the late 1960s was a moment of white working-class backlash against the Civil Rights movement, as evidenced by George Wallace's strong showing in the 1968 presidential election, the PPC created an alternative movement for black-white coalition. Political scientist Jody Carlson has written that the Wallace campaign gained popularity in 1968 because it appealed to lower class, Southern, whites who felt "powerless" to gain their share of America's wealth. Carlson found that those who supported Wallace did so from "a model of scarcity," believing that "there is only so much to go around, and governmental response to civil rights demands means that one's 'share' has to be jealously guarded, as blacks are perceived as getting more than what rightfully belongs to them."86 The Appalachians who participated in the PPC, however, believed that America had abundant resources that could be more adequately shared with the all of the poor, both blacks and whites. Defining America as a place of "scarcity" or one of "abundance" is central to the difference between the Wallace supporters and those Appalachians who supported the PPC.

   There were perhaps as many as four or five hundred Appalachians, of which two to three hundred were white, who attended the Poor People's Campaign.87 The Appalachian participants came primarily from Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia and were assembled by the Appalachian Volunteers, a federally funded Appalachian organization, and the Highlander Center, a school and labor activist group in New Market, Tennessee. Some of the participants were educated volunteers, labor activists, and Civil Rights veterans-like Miles Horton, director of the Highlander Center-while others were unemployed participants who had not been previously engaged in the Civil Rights movement.88 Charles "Buck" Maggard, a white Appalachian organizer for the PPC, stated that "I didn't ask the income of these people who wanted to volunteer, I knew 


Photo IV: White Applachian Family (note the shack's pronouncement of "Soul Power!" the chosen slogan of the PPC over the more well-known idea of "Black Power" ) Oliver Atkins Collection, George Mason University, Folder 92, Sheet 1, Frame 18.


A white Appalachian family (10 members) standing outside a tent which bears a banner saying "Sol! Power". 

them. They were poor all right. It was difficult for them to come, they had families to leave and weren't gettin' paid while they were there. But they came because they believed in it."89

   The Appalachian demands, unlike those of the Native Americans or the Mexican Americans, centered on economic issues. Tom Houck, the SCLC organizer for all of the campaign's non-African American minorities, concluded that "for the Indians, it was basically fishing rights, land rights, more freedom for educational rights in their reservations and tribal councils. The Mexican Americans . . . were very interested in the land question in the treaty of Guadeloupe Hidalgo (1848). . . The poor whites were interested basically in the same things as blacks: the food question, the question of starvation; the question of hunger."90

   Appalachians who came to Resurrection City hoped that the campaign would publicize as well as politicize the plight of America's poor as part of a structural problem of oppression. One Appalachian group from Kentucky met with Senator John Sherman and provided this list of broad and radical demands:

  1. Adequate jobs for the unemployed and the underemployed.
  2. Welfare payments brought up to realistically defined minimum subsistence levels with removal of qualifications that tend to be punitive and to break up families.
  3. Basic minimum income guarantees for all Americans.
  4. The firm and final establishment of school desegregation and quality of education for all Americans.
  5. A massive program of building and renovation to provide decent housing for the poor and those Americans who live on minimum, fixed income.
  6. Adequate medical and dental care for all Americans.
  7. The elimination from the law enforcement and judicial systems of whatever forms of discrimination against minority groups and poor people now exist.91

   Like most aspects of the Campaign, the Appalachian demands were broadly defined and called for the creation of new socioeconomic policies without enumerating specific legislative proposals. In tactics and in general purpose the Appalachian people shared a grass-roots campaign with poor African Americans. For instance, the Council of Southern Mountains, an activist group for Appalachia, applauded the fact that the campaign created an economic alliance between Appalachians and poor African Americans. The Council endorsed the Appalachian participation in the PPC with the opinion that the economic goals of the campaign had greater implications than the many previous efforts of the Civil Rights movement.

For the people of Appalachia, the Poor People's Campaign must not be seen as just another civil-rights demonstration, a march which can be observed from a distance, criticized now and dismissed as irrelevant at some future date. The Poor People's Campaign is far more significant: it attempts to channel the rage and the frustration of the poor into a legitimate and effective program of education and political action for this nation in a non-violent way.92

   The issue, however, for the poor white Appalachians in the PPC was whether they would seek greater economic relief through a reform of federal programs or whether they would demand an economic revolution against the capitalist system itself. Ernest Austin, the SCLC staff member in charge of organizing the Appalachian groups, summarized the situation as the following:

I call it political or philosophical problems here. What constitutes the movement? There is the groups that will come in on the double talk who will talk about restructuring the economic system of the United States because the system itself is corrupt. These people come on like radicals. And then there's the group of black folks might come out of Mississippi who don't see this system as bad per se -- they see themselves locked out of it. In other words, they can't participate in it -- and, you know, enjoy the abundance. And here at the same time, you've got this mother with eight children. She's not interested in tearing down this productive structure, she's interested in getting more of her share of it. . . . And then you've got a group of middle class whites -- who by this time are talking around trying to tell the black folk, "Well we've been there, we've seen it and we've tasted it, and we're telling you what you want to get into is no good." And so you have these two forces working . . . this causes a lot of confusion.93

   Like many participants of the campaign, Appalachians were divided over the PPC's economic goals. On the one hand, Appalachians believed that America was an overwhelmingly wealthy nation that could share its abundance with the poor by eliminating expenditures on the Vietnam War and through expanded federal welfare programs. On the other hand, there were those who thought that America's entire economic system required reevaluation. These Appalachians probably agreed with Reverend Jesse Jackson's declaration during the campaign that "Sometime before this night is over we are going to talk not just about jobs, but we are going to talk about capitalism itself.... People have been afraid of using the word (capitalism) because the alternative is supposed to be communism. Whether or not that is the alternative, capitalism is a bad system."94 The Appalachians who argued for economic reform, however, still believed in the prospects that a "reformed" capitalism could achieve the American utopian dream, what Warren I. Susman has called the "culture of abundance." The PPC's battle over economic goals is an example of Susman's theory that "the culture of abundancy and its believed promises help explain better than any other factor why Marxian socialism did not take deep root in the United States. Many who might have chosen the socialist way went instead with the hope of a culture of abundance."95 Diane DiPrima's poem, "Revolutionary Letters, #19," written for the Poor People's Campaign, expressed the campaign's contradiction between the desire to share in America's "culture of abundance" or to revolt against it.

If what you want is jobs
for everyone, you are still the enemy, 
you have not thought thru, clearly what that means. 
If what you want is housing, Industry
(G.E. on the Navaho reservation)
a car for everyone, garage, refrigerator,
TV, more plumbing, scientific
Freeways, you are still
The enemy, you have chosen
To sacrifice the planet for a few years
of some science fiction utopia, if what
you want
Still is, or can be, schools
Where all our kids are pushed into one
shape, are Taught
It's better to be "American" than black
Or Indian, or Jap, or Puerto Rican, where Dick
And Jane become and are the dream, do you
Look like Dick's father, don't you think your kid
Secretly wishes you did. . . .If you still want a
A small piece of suburbia, green lawn
Laid down by the square foot
Color TV, whose radiant energy
Kills brain cells, whose subliminal ads
Brainwash your children, have taken over
Your dreams. . .THEN YOU ARE STILL
THE ENEMY, you are selling
Yourself short, remember
You can have what you ask for, ask for

   The PPC's internal argument between revolting against the "culture of abundance" or buying into it through economic reform does not detract from the fact that poor, white, Appalachian participation contrasted with the popular notion of "white backlash." Through their participation in the PPC, Appalachians demonstrated that they were not susceptible to George's Wallace's "politics of the powerless." These Appalachians believed that America's resources could be shared either through economic "reform" or economic "revolution." Thus, the PPC's Appalachians rejected Wallace's notion of economic scarcity and the resulting "white backlash" against the Civil Rights movement. Although their numbers were small, the class-based efforts of the Appalachians at the PPC acted as a symbolic gesture to galvanize other Americans towards the campaign's goals.

Cultural Consciousness and The Soul Center

   The establishment of cross-cultural understanding and affinity between the various minorities at Resurrection City was considered a crucial aspect of the campaign. The establishment of a multi-cultural program at RC manifested itself in the "Many Races Soul Center" or cultural tent. The "Soul Center" tent stood in the middle of Resurrection City as a cultural product of inter-racial coordination between the SCLC, the Highlander Center, and the Smithsonian Institute. Reverend Frederick D. Kirkpatrick and Jimmy Collier worked together with Ralph Rinzler of the Smithsonian and Miles Horton and Guy Carawan of Highlander to establish a space of cross-cultural exchange. According to Kirkpatrick the center was created because the "poor people in America need to be freed from cultural oppression, from the sense of being out of step with the American life style."97

    Some of the principal Appalachian musicians and folklorists who performed during the campaign were Pete Seeger, Mike Seeger, and Guy Carawan.98 Anne Romasc from New York City, who had previously taught groups of black and southern high-school students at Highlander, was now continuing her efforts in the Soul Tent "using the media of art, music, literature, and dancing to develop inter-racial understanding."99 Sessions were often held on Appalachian work songs, black spirituals and similar work songs, Gospel, blues, country, traditional Mexican American songs, and Indian chants as well as folk stories. For example, on the evening of May 29th various ethnic groups got together in the "Soul Center" tent where there was a symphony of "harmonicas, trumpets, guitars, drums of different makes and kinds-including a barrel and a tin can, and a whiskey bottle that became a musical instrument akin to a triangle. A group of Indians sang songs of their solidarity with all the Poor People."100 Bernice Reagon, a leading African American folk singer, "soon had Tent City singing and shouting, rocking and clapping to the beat of old spirituals, the original freedom songs whose lyrics she referred to not as 'negro dialect' but as 'Afro-American language.'"101 Reagon recalled that while performing at the "Soul Center" she experienced her earliest moments of inter-racial cultural exchange:

I remember Kirkpatrick coming afterwards, and saying we are going to sing "This Land is Your Land" by Woodie Guthrie, and we can sing this because Chief Crow Dog says it's all right. And for me it was a very interesting exercise not in simply putting people together but in one of my earliest watchings of a cultural program where I saw musicians relating and shifting their material because they were acknowledging the relationship between who they were and who somebody else was.102

   In addition to musical entertainment and cultural exchange programs, both the "Soul Center" tent and the "Poor People's University" established multi-racial education courses. The educational workshops conducted during the campaign focused on problems of inter-racial division, specific problems of various ethnic or racial groups, demoralizing and "violent" effects of poverty, and ways to ultimately overcome these problems through integration, non-violence, and class-based solidarity. The University's seminars were held at the Highlander's "Soul Center" and through Washington, D.C.'s academic consortium of Catholic University, Howard University, American University, George Washington University, and Georgetown University. Stoney Cooks, the SCLC staff member who created, organized, and implemented the "Poor People's University," summarized its educational activities with the enthusiastic comment that "we staged about twenty-five successful lecture series, you know, in the city. We had about 13 lecture series at George Washington campus, and we had two at Howard University's campus; ranging from people like Michael Harrington (author of The Other America), I.F. Stone, Dave Dellinger, Barbara Denning, you know, just a wide range of people."103 Thus, the multi-cultural programs of the "Soul Center" tent and the multi-racial educational programs of the "Poor People's University" acted as a class-based, multicultural, educational opportunity for the social activists of the Poor People's Campaign.

The March's Legislative Objectives: Reform or Revolution?

    The Poor People's Campaign presented a multitude of demands from local interests and specific ethnic concerns to arguments for all encompassing welfare policies. According to press accounts, these broad demands caused confusion over the campaign's ends. The SCLC's Statements of Demands for Rights of the Poor, dated April 29-30 and May 1, 1968 stipulated the campaign's demands in broad terms.

 The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, architects of the Poor People's Campaign, have outlined 5 requirements of the bill of economic & social rights that will set poverty on the road to extinction: 

  1. A meaningful job at a living wage for every employable citizen. 
  2. A secure and adequate income for all who cannot find jobs or for whom employment is inappropriate. 
  3. Access to land as a means to income and livelihood. 
  4. Access to capital as a means of full participation in the economic life of America. 
  5. Recognition by law of the right of people affected by government programs to play a truly significant role in determining how they are designed and carried out.104

 The demands were addressed to the Departments of Agriculture, Justice, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, Health, Education & Welfare, State, and Interior and the Office of Economic Opportunity, and the Senate Sub-Committee on Employment. On the surface, the diffuse demands of the Campaign may seem incongruous with previous Civil Rights tactics. This, of course, was by design. During an interview with Andrew Young, executive vice president of SCLC, the journalist Jose Yglesias wrote that

The reasons for not presenting detailed legislation are tactical. They believe that if the campaign is tied to specific bills they may, in Andy Young's words, be building failure. Their job is to mount a massive, militant demonstration of poor people's needs-the wiping out of slums, the creation of jobs, through government spending on, say, the rebuilding of cities, immediate guaranteed incomes, the extension of medical services and quality education for everyone; in effect, to spend the annual $70-billion allotted 'for war' to insure that the poor break out of the cycle of poverty and discrimination they believe the system now imposes on them. Finding legislative solutions is the job of the Administration and Congress.105

While Abernathy and the SCLC executive staff were attempting to organize a class-based campaign for economic redistribution, they still recognized that their planned "Solidarity Day" march required the backing of the traditional Civil Rights white, liberal, middle-class constituency. When asked by the press about the role of the white, middle-class, liberals, Abernathy responded "We have not at all changed our strategy. We know that we must have the backing and the support of the white majority in our country because we make up a small minority -- approximately 11 percent -- of the population of this country. As black people, as poor people, at best we would only make up one-fifth of the population. So we have to rely on a strong reservoir of goodwill in the white community."106

    To ensure the support of the affluent whites, Abernathy appointed Bayard Rustin, the organizer of the 1963 Civil Rights march, to organize and prepare the poor for the "Solidarity Day" march. The press applauded the appointment of Rustin because they believed, in the words of the Washington Post, that he represented the "old-line, respectable, highly organized, labor, church and academic liberalism."107 Although Abernathy had originally rejected Rustin for the organizing role, he realized by late May that he needed Rustin's organizational ability as well as his connection to liberal, middle-class, whites and labor. Rustin was appointed to the position on May 25 and he wasted no time in delaying "Solidarity Day" from the Memorial Day weekend to June 19th. More importantly, however, he issued the pragmatic "Call to Americans of Goodwill," which contained an "Economic Bill of Rights" that stipulated the specific legislative goals of the campaign. These goals were: 

  1. 1. Recommit the Federal Government to the Full Employment Act of 1946 and legislate the immediate creation of at least one million socially useful career jobs in public service;
  2. Adopt the pending housing and urban development act of 1968
  3. Repeal the 90th Congress's punitive welfare restrictions in the 1967 Social Security Act. . .;
  4.  Extend to all farm workers the right -- guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act &mdash to organize agricultural labor unions;
  5.  Restore budget cuts for bilingual education, Head Start, summer jobs, Economic Opportunity Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Acts.108

     Furthermore, Rustin pragmatically stated in his text that, "We recognize that this economic bill of rights cannot be adopted overnight. And we are not blind to the conservative mood of the present Congress."109 The press immediately applauded Rustin's specific legislative goals of reform. The Washington Post stated "Mr. Rustin's enumeration of specific goals gives the campaign a focus, the lack of which has made its purposes quixotic and unrealizable. . . These demands, as Mr. Rustin recognizes, are not realizable overnight. The essential thing is that a good faith constructive start be made toward realization of them."110

     Despite their appeal to the press, Rustin's remarks went against Abernathy's declaration that "When it comes to specific legislation, this is not our job. If the leaders of this country have enough sense to put a man on the moon, they have enough sense to put an end to poverty in this country."111 Thus, the day following Rustin's public release of the "Economic Bill of Rights," Hosea Williams, an executive member of the SCLC staff and political director of PPC's "direct action" demonstrations, called the pronouncement "a bunch of foolishness" and "unauthorized." By June 7, Rustin resigned from the march stating that "I know from long experience that large numbers of people cannot be enlisted in such a mobilization unless they clearly understand its aims, objectives and tactics."112

     The press widely reported that members of the SCLC executive staff were infuriated by Rustin's refusal to equate the war in Vietnam with the plight of the poor. Additionally, the SCLC, as reported by the press, criticized Rustin for his specific and "limited" goals and the allowance to Congress that those goals might not be immediately obtainable. Anti-war members, student groups, and more militant members of the PPC saw Rustin as "a sellout to the white liberal Establishment."113 The New York Times reported that one "informed official" aptly stated that Rustin's specific and limited legislative goals forced the Poor People's Campaign "to choose between mere reform with the system, as represented by Rustin, and real revolutionary change, as demanded by his people. It was really no choice because he can't lay down the law to them. The campaign is run by a real democracy."114 Rustin's goals symbolized the "reform" philosophy of the Civil Rights movement. The Poor People's Campaign, however, was an amalgamation of militant radicalism and traditional integrationist tactics. The product that came from these strains was a class-based ideal that demanded a multi-racial coalition for revolutionary change in America's socioeconomic policies. 



Figure 2: Chicago Defender Cartoon

     In response to Rustin's untimely departure from the campaign, the liberal press angrily assaulted the PPC and its future. The Washington Post issued an editorial on June 10 entitled "Get it Together!" in which it assailed the removal of Rustin and his specific legislative goals:

 When Hosea Williams, the campaign chief of direct action, commented the other day on the fine proposals of Bayard Rustin-proposals that might have taken the Campaign out of the doldrums-Mr. Williams called them 'completely out of order.' Now Mr. Rustin has resigned as coordinator of the June 19 "Solidarity Day" march and while this will deal the Campaign a serious blow, he can hardly be blamed. For the man who was out of order was Mr. Williams, with his intemperate remarks.115

The New York Times also issued a chilling editorial that presciently commented that "the SCLC militants' mistrust of 'Rustinism' forced their leader to drop his most important link to middle-class liberalism. It was a fateful decision."116 Furthermore, the Chicago Defender printed an intriguing cartoon that equated the PPC with the American war in Vietnam. The cartoon depicted a confused and bedazzled "Uncle Sam" flanked by Abernathy's seemingly never ending "Poor People's Demands" and North Vietnam's equally long "Hanoi Demands." The cartoon demonstrated the feeling among some of America's middle class that the PPC and North Vietnam were equal enemies of America; that the two forces were assaulting the nation's values both aboard and at home. After only one week of the city's existence, the New York Times questioned the relevancy of the Campaign for white, middle class Americans:

The more troublesome question is simply, 'Why?' Perhaps it is only the reluctance or inability of the white middle class to comprehend a life so radically different from its own, or to credit the anger and frustration pent up in the poor, particularly the black poor; but even conceding that, it is hard to see a rational explanation for Resurrection City. . . Resurrection City does not seem necessary or even symbolic. . . That, at least, is the way it appears to the middle class mind.117

Solidarity Day

     Abernathy appointed Sterling Tucker, director of the Washington Urban League, as Rustin's replacement. Following Tucker's appointment, new legislative goals were developed in the face of increasing congressional and national criticism of the Poor People's Campaign. On June 13, Tucker hurriedly issued a list of 49 demands of which 22 were considered so essential that the SCLC would end Resurrection City if the key demands were met. The 22 key demands were made up of 19 administrative and three legislative items. The administrative demands focused on Federal food programs, job programs, education, health services, and welfare benefits to the poor. The three legislative demands included the passage of a bill to create 2.4 million jobs over a four-year period, provided $5.5 billion towards new housing, and repeal the new welfare amendments that would freeze Federal welfare contributions at the January 1, 1968 level. While Tucker's new legislative goals were more ambitious than Rustin's "Bill of Economic Rights," they were signs of desperation among the leaders of the Poor People's Campaign.

     Dr. King's planned goal of class-based confrontation to force economic change was all but abandoned by the arrival of "Solidarity Day." It was widely understood that in order for the march to be a success, it had to incorporate the white, liberal, middle class remnants of the 1963 march. The goal of changing the capitalist system of America was incompatible with "American" values. Therefore, by mid-June the PPC demanded reform, not revolution.

     Once the SCLC had reduced its goals from "revolution" to "reform," they finally earned the respect of the liberal press. In the editorial "The Goals for The Poor," the Washington Post wrote that the new demands "they (SCLC) seek are not pie in the sky but food in the belly, and an end to discrimination."118 Similarly, the New York Times happily declared that "For a crusade that began and then nearly floundered on great moral imperatives -- the injustice of a government that spends more money planning commuter highways for well-fed surbanites than on the distribution of surplus hominy grits for hungry black children -- last week's decisions smacked remarkably of practical politics."119 In a cheerful exultation over the diminished demands, the Washington Post remarked triumphantly that "The demands of the poor, as now formulated, are neither fanciful nor exorbitant. They reflect, almost without exception, goals already enunciated by the President and seriously contemplated by the Congress. Really, what the poor seek is redemption of promises and an enlargement of opportunity. There is nothing at all unreasonable or un-American about that."120

     On June 19, 1968 the Poor People's Campaign averted a total disaster for the "Solidarity Day" march as an estimated 50,000 people marched on the Capitol. The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, one of several prominent speakers on "Solidarity Day" stood beneath the Lincoln Memorial and emphatically stipulated the march's philosophy as he declared that,

 Whereas we stand in the shadows of Lincoln the Emancipator who freed us into capitalism without capital. Whereas we stand in a land of surplus food with 10 million starving citizens, and whereas the soil bank has become Holy Land. . . the land on which some men swim in wealth while others drown in tears from broken promises, destroyed dreams and blasted hopes. . . For the life we live and the life we love we vow to fight for a new sensitive and sensible economic order in that all men need a job or an income if they are to have human dignity; all men deserve a job or an income for it is not alone by men's work but by God's grace that America is so fertile and rich; And America can afford a job or an income for all men if she has the will to put healing programs over killing programs.121

The efforts of "Solidarity Day" equated the U.S. war in Vietnam with issues of race and poverty that culminated in what became the second and final major Civil Rights march on Washington, D.C.

   The participants of the march, however, found that "Solidarity Day" was profoundly different than the 1963 Civil Rights march. The New York Times compared the 1963 and 1968 marches and concluded that, "In tone, the 1963 march was kind of a 


 Photo V: The Reverend Jesse Jackson at Resurrection City, Oliver Atkins Collection, George Mason University, Folder 91, Sheet 2, Frame 4.

 mass love-in, church social, county fair and civil rights demonstration. . . Today's crowd was more intense. It conveyed a greater sense of cool anger and militancy."122 Time Magazine sadly reported that

The 1963 demonstration was suffused with the hope that the last vestiges of legal segregation would soon disappear. Most indeed did, but that did not prove enough; laws aside, the reality of discrimination and poverty remained. The 1968 rally was motivated by disillusionment and despair. In five years, a mood of aspiration had changed, among many, to one of apocalypse.123

   Similarly, Luther Jackson, an official of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), wryly remarked that "you can almost tell by the clothes. Five years ago the thing was almost solidly middle-class, and even the poor dressed in their Sunday best. Yet the country has failed to change, and there is disenchantment which affects them in so many ways."124

    Besides the one-day spectacle of the Solidarity Day march, the additional plans for the PPC never came to fruition. The PPC's planned second phase of mass arrests never occurred and the third phase, the national economic boycott, was abandoned. Dr. King's idea of economic confrontation to end the Vietnam War and reallocate America's expenditures towards a "real war on poverty" were considered too radical a concept to enlist the support of America's white, middle-class, liberals.

 Black Capitalism and the Poor People's Campaign

     While the poor were mired in mud at Resurrection City attempting to make their private plight a public one, Richard M. Nixon, a Republican presidential candidate, was preparing his own answer to the Poor People's Campaign. In a radio address in April of 1968, Nixon stated that "Integration must come-but in order for it to come on a sound and equal basis, the black community has to be built from within even as the old barriers between black and white are dismantled from without."125 His radio address rejected SCLC's call for welfare programs and government intervention for the poor. Instead, he developed a political pitch that asked African Americans to help themselves by establishing their own businesses. As The Wall Street Journal correctly summarized, Nixon placed "primary emphasis on helping poor black people help themselves where they now are, living together in the urban and rural slums of America. Integration of the black population, except for the relatively small middle class, will be left for another time."126 Nixon's call was for a new alliance with the portion of the black population that "disavows any debt to the Democratic Party. Because of this, the [forthcoming] Nixon years could see the development of a most unusual alliance-between a Republican Administration that is not trusted by most blacks and a black militant leadership that is not trusted by most whites."127

     On May 16, 1968, Nixon refined his ideas on this "unusual alliance" when he delivered the speech "A New Alignment for American Unity." In the speech, Nixon discussed a "new majority" that included the motley combination of traditional Republicans, the Moynihan-Goodwin liberals, the progressive South, and black militants. Nixon believed that this "new majority is not a grouping of power blocs, but an alliance of ideas. . . many of these men and women belong to the same blocs that formed the old coalitions. But now, thinking independently, they have all reached a new conclusion about the direction of our nation."128 Nixon's call for a "new majority" was an allure to the adherents of "black power" while it also was a public rebuke of the Poor People's Campaign. Nixon explained his notions of "black capitalism" during his April 14 radio address:

Black extremists are guaranteed headlines when they shout "burn" or "get a gun." But much of the black militant talk these days is actually in terms far closer to the doctrines of free enterprise than to those of the welfarist '30s-terms of "pride," "ownership," "private enterprise," "capital," "self-assurance," "self-respect,"-the same qualities, the same characteristics, the same ideals, the same methods, that for two centuries have been at the heart of American success, and that America has been exporting to the world. What most of the militants are asking is not separation, but to be included in-not as supplicants, but as owners, as entrepreneurs-to have a share of the wealth and a piece of the action. And this is precisely what the central target of the new approach ought to be. It ought to be orientated toward more black ownership, for from this can flow the rest -black pride, black jobs, black opportunity and yes, black power, in the best, the most constructive sense of that often misapplied term.129

Seeing the stark choice between "black power" and the goals of the Poor People's Campaign, Bayard Rustin aggressively took on the ideas of "black capitalism." While addressing members of the AFL-CIO in his attempt to gain labor's support for the PPC, Rustin commented in the Federationist, the AFL-CIO's primary publication, that in regards to "black power:"

I detect powerful elements of conservatism. Leaving aside those extremists who call for violent 'revolution,' the Black Power movement embraces a diversity of groups and ideologies. It contains a strong impulse toward withdrawal from social struggle and action, a retreat back into the ghetto, avoidance of contact with the white world... This brand of black power has much in common with the conservative white America's view of the Negro. It stresses self-help ('why don't those Negroes pull themselves up by their bootstraps like my ancestors did?'). It identifies the Negro's main problems in psychological terms, calls upon him to develop greater self-respect and dignity by studying Negro history and culture and by building independent institutions. . . Above all, in my opinion, these deficiencies result from systematic exclusion of the Negro from the economic mainstream. This exclusion cannot be reversed-but only perpetuated-by gilding the ghettos. A 'separate but equal' economy for black Americans is impossible.130

   Nixon's call for "black capitalism" did not address black power's demand for political control as well as economic power, but it did garner support among some of the black militant leadership. By the summer of 1968, Mr. Roy Innis had assumed the national director's duties of the Congress of Racial of Equality (CORE). Innis had pledged that CORE would create "black ownership of capital instruments" to create "a nation within a nation."131 In regards to Nixon's political appeal for "black capitalism," Mr. Innis responded that "the key question is whether Mr. Nixon continues to float pie-in-the-sky dreamy ideas, like integration, that are unrealistic, or whether he moves straightforward toward a redistribution of power that places more control of black communities in the hands of blacks. This latter course will be the most important thing he can do to defuse the ghetto."132 As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the similarities between Nixon and Innis extended to actual legislative policies. During the course of the Poor People's Campaign, Mr. Innis and "a bipartisan group of Congressman including conservatives and liberals" introduced into Congress the "Community Self-Determination Act." The essence of the bill was the creation of a Community Development Corporation (CDC) by the residents of poor neighborhoods. The CDC would own and manage subsidiary businesses in the community, receiving its credit from a new national system of community development banks, owned by the CDCs and patterned after the National Land Bank Associations that help provide farm credit. The act also contained incentives to encourage private companies to enter into business in the mostly black ghetto communities.

    While the "Community Self-Determination Act" was never passed in Congress, it served as an example of political coupling between white conservatives and black radicals. Although the Poor People's Campaign offered government assistance in the form of new socioeconomic policies, "black capitalism" seemingly offered time honored American practices of self-help entrepreneurship. The proposed union between the ideals of "black power" and "black capitalism" was largely an unsuccessful political lure for the Nixon campaign, it did, however, represent an opportunity for increased fractionalization within the Civil Rights movement. When the PPC failed to gain the support that the SCLC expected from white, middle-class, liberals it indicated to the African American community that King's "dream" of integration had failed. Nixon seized on this idea and further opened the gap between black and white by offering African Americans the separate, but equal, economic notions of "black capitalism." Ultimately, the failure of whites to fully support the PPC weakened SCLC's position and allowed for greater polarization and confusion among Civil Rights leaders. The SCLC, adrift without King and further weakened by the failure of the PPC, ultimately lost its legitimacy as the forefront Civil Rights organization. Thus, the failure of the PPC contributed to the overall demise of the Civil Rights movement.


    On June 24, 1968, Michael Clark jotted down his last thoughts on the Poor People's Campaign as the police closed Resurrection City forever:

 Resurrection City was a small place and a very human one. No one seems to know for sure how many people lived there the past month and a half-It has also had problems all out of proportion with its size. Its citizens were poor people. They had few illusions about their past, or their future. Most were unaccustomed to governing themselves. They had been pushed around for years, and sometimes tempers exploded, sometimes they reacted with violence. They came from California, Chicago, Mississippi, Florida, New York, New Mexico, Kentucky-from all over the nation-and most came with a common feeling of frustration. But for many, these muddy sheets and plywood shanties were home. It was here that the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous "I have a Dream" speech five years ago.... But there was a marked difference between the march last week and the one five years ago. The first march in 1963 and also the Selma-Montgomery March in 1965 contained a strong current of hope and trust.... The marchers believed that the American Dream was only a step away from realization -- that once the evils of racial prejudice were exposed this country would respond to eliminate them.... All that is gone now. The evils were exposed and little was done. The march last week was born, not out of hope, but out of frustration and desperation. These were different demands -- for decent jobs, good schools, and a meaningful way of life. The marchers this time had a different purpose. They were ready to say they had been short-changed. They had not received their share of the American Dream.133

   The PPC offered two visions for America's future. The first was centered on economic reform and it was best represented by Bayard Rustin and the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy. The assassination of Robert Kennedy in the midst of the campaign went a long way towards weakening the reformist position within SCLC. As Andrew Young emotionally recalled, the death of King followed by Kennedy's assassination had taken its toll.

 So we didn't have time to grieve [for King], we didn't have time to even miss Martin Luther King. We had to go on with his work. And so we pushed ourselves even though we were probably all emotionally and internally on the verge of exploding. And we pushed ourselves right on through the early days of the Poor People's Campaign. But then on the sixth of June, right after Martin's death on the fourth of April, Robert Kennedy's assassination just brought everything to a halt, and I think we began to grieve for Martin in the context of Bobby Kennedy's assassination because Bobby Kennedy had been with us in Atlanta at Martin's funeral. And many of us began to see in him a hope for the future. We kind of transferred a little of our loyalty, a little of our trust, and a little of our hope to him, and now he was gone too.

In the aftermath of Kennedy's assassination and in the face of growing black militancy, the Poor People's Campaign ultimately chose a revolutionary vision for America that demanded the complete overhaul of the America's capitalist system. Despite the revolutionary attempt at a class-based movement for the poor, the SCLC leadership was forced to acknowledge that the PPC failed to create an outpouring of sympathy from white liberals in the hopes of politicizing the middle class against the government's spending priorities. Bill Rutherford, executive director of SCLC, summarized the feelings of frustration and abandonment felt by many Civil Rights leaders in the aftermath of the Poor People's Campaign:

We had anticipated a reaction on the part of the American public under the impact of publicity that we had hoped to generate, that would have helped achieve the goal in focusing attention on the plight of the poor in America. And within two or three weeks after the demonstrations at the Department of Justice, at the FBI Building, at the Department of Agriculture, and so on, it became more and more clear that this was not happening, it was not about to happen. In fact, I would say that the culmination of the Poor People's Campaign, which left thrawted and frustrated the hundreds and thousands of people who come from all parts of the country, who had no homes to go to, who were deeply buried in poverty and who remained buried in poverty despite the Poor People's Campaign, and were left completely stranded -- they were the survivors of what could be described as the Little Bighorn of the civil rights movement.134

   After the six-week debacle for the PPC, it was clear that white, middle-class, liberal Americans would only engage in the Civil Rights movement when it clung to "American" ideals. In other words, the Civil Rights movement of the early 1960s succeded because it fought racial inequality as part of a regional and political -- not national and economic -- problem. The Poor People's Campaign, however, questioned America's capitalist system and was thus seen as economically akin to revolution. Therefore, the PPC garnered little support from the white, middle-class, liberals who could concede concrete legislative reforms for the poor but not outright change of the economic system for all Americans. Therefore, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, the apathy of the middle class, the terrible weather conditions, the failure to produce anti-poverty legislation, and the inherent difficulty of managing a city of the impoverished caused the Poor People's Campaign to end ignominiously. When the revolutionary call for a class-based confrontation failed to garner support among the traditional Civil Rights' constituency, the Poor People's Campaign was doomed to failure and along with it the last vestige of Dr. Martin Luther King's "dream."




 [1] New York Times, May 2, 1968, p. 30. 

 [2] Both the press and the SCLC executive staff criticized Dr. Abernathy. The FBI files show that even before the PPC, his leadership was often criticized by Andrew Young, executive vice president of SCLC, Correta King, Bill Rutherford (SCLC's executive director), and SCLC senior staffer Stanley Levinson. FBI SCLC Files 2152-2156, May 1968. 

 [3] Steven F. Lawson's historiographical article on Civil Rights historical scholarship mentions the Poor People's Campaign in passing but provides no real insight into its impact and, furthermore, provides no additional source material on the subject. For a historiographical account of the Civil Rights movement please see, Steven F. Lawson, "Freedom Then, Freedom Now: The Historiography of the Civil Rights movement," American Historical Review, 96 (April 1991), 456-471. There are two narrative accounts of the Poor People's Campaign and Resurrection City. The first account, Charles Fager's Uncertain Resurrection: The Poor People's Washington Campaign is the most detailed treatment of Resurrection City available. Fager concludes that the Poor People's Campaign failed because of leadership problems and overall tactics. Although his prediction has not come true that, "No doubt the moldy cadaver will eventually be exhumed and exhaustively dissected by a corps of Ph.D. candidates, and its inner secrets will be exposed." (Fager, p. 8) The second narrative account of the Poor People's Campaign can be found in Gerald McKnight's The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People's Campaign. McKnight concludes that "lawless elements of the American surveillance state, especially the FBI, played a major role in the campaign's bafflement and undoing." Gerald McKnight, The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People's Campaign (Boulder, Colorado: WestView Press, 1998). For additional narrative accounts of the Poor People's Campaign please see, Ben W. Gilbert and the Staff of The Washington Post, Ten Blocks from the White House: Anatomy of the Washington Riots, p. 195-207; Adam Fairclough, To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press, 1987), p. 357-384; Charles Hunter, "On the Case in Resurrection City", Trans-Action magazine article reprinted in August Meir, The Transformation of Activism (Aldine Publishing Company, 1970), p. 5-29; and, Jose Yglesias, "Dr. King's March on Washington," New York Times Magazine article reprinted in August Meir, John Bracey Jr., and Elliot Rudwick, eds. Black Protest in the Sixties, (New York: Markus Wiener Publishing, Inc., 1991), p. 277. 

 [4] Charles Fager, Uncertain Resurrection: The Poor People's Washington Campaign (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 1969), p. 28-29. 

 [5] Godfrey Hodgson, America in Our Time: From World War II to Nixon What Happened and Why (New York: Random House, 1978), p. 89. For a full discussion of Hodgson's views on the philosophy of the "liberal consensus" see, Hodgson, "The Ideology of the Liberal Consensus," America in our Time, p. 67-98. 

 [6] Ibid, p. 179. 

 [7] Manning Marable, Black American Politics: From The Washington Marches to Jesse Jackson (London: Verso, 1985), p. vii. 

 [8] Stokely Carmichael quoted in Hodgson, America in Our Time, p. 192. 

 [9] Scott Sandage, "A Marble House Divided: The Lincoln Memorial, the Civil Rights movement, and the Politics of Memory, 1939-1963," The Journal of American History, June 1993, pp. 135-167. 

 [10] Adam Fairclough, To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1978), pp. 23-25; Young quoted in James Forman, The Making of a Black Revolutionary (New York: Macmillian, 1972), p. 309. 

 [11] Young and Wilkins, quoted in, Henry Hampton and Steve Fayer (eds.), Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s (New York: Bantam Books, 1990), p. 339. 

 [12] David Garrow, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (New York: William Morrow, 1986), pp. 539-540. 

 [13] Stokely Carmichael, oral history interview, Hampton and Fayer (eds.), Voices of Freedom, p. 347. 

 [14] Southern Christian Leadership Conference, "Statement by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President," December 4, 1967, The King Archives, Box 178, File 33; New York Times, December 5, 1967, p. 1 and 32. 

 [15] The President's Commission on Civil Disorder issued the report with the historic assessment that America was developing two nations, "one white, the other black." Dr. Martin Luther King, Look, April, 1968. 

 [16] Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), "What We Want," 1966 as reprinted in Civil Rights and the Black American: A Documentary History, edited by Albert P. Blaustein and Robert L. Zanagrando (New York: Washington Square Press, 1968), p. 602. 

 [17] New York Times, editorial "The Responsibility of Dissent," December 6, 1967, p. 46. 

 [18] Jack Nelson, Los Angeles Times News Service, as printed in The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, June 10, 1968, 2-A. 

 [19] The Washingtonian, February, 1968, p. 53. 

 [20] Ibid. 

 [21] New York Times Magazine, March 31, 1967. 

 [22] Newsweek, May 6, 1968, p. 30. 

 [23] While King often referred to the "$70-billion it (the U.S.) spends annually for war," the actual $70 billion represented the total defense outlay for 1967, with approximately $20.5 billion spent on the war in Vietnam. Department of Defense Authorization Bill, 1968; Jose Yglesias, New York Times Magazine, March 31, 1967. 

 [24] Richard Glenn Lenta details King's leftward movement in the last two years of his life. See, Richard Glen Lentz, Resurrecting the Prophet: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the News Magazines, (Phd dissertation, University of Iowa, 1983). 

 [25] Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted by Jose Yglesias, New York Times Magazine, March 31, 1967. 

 [26] Knoxville Journal, "Marchers Run Into Problems," May 4, 1968, p. 1. 

 [27] Reverend Hosea Williams, interview with the author, April 16, 1998. 

 [28] Marian Wright Edelman, oral history interview, Hamilton and Fayer (eds.), Voices of Freedom, pp. 451-452. 

 [29] In early 1965, King had also made preparations for a nation-wide boycott of Mississippi products but relented and did away with the plan at the last minute. Fager, p. 18. 

 [30] Michael Harrington, oral history interview, Hampton and Fayer (eds.), Voices of Freedom, p. 458. 

 [31] Milton Viorst, The Washingtonian, February, 1968, p. 53. 

 [32] The King Center, Atlanta, Georgia maintains thousands of applicant forms for the PPC. The applicants' race was not given on the form but the last names of many of the applicants might have given some indication of their race. Unfortunately, not every applicant completely filled out the forms, thus information on where the participants came from and who they were was not always available. King Center, Box 180 and 181. Mrs. Mahalia Keys application was in Box 180, file 21. 

 [33] Washington Post, "What Brings Poor People to the Capital?," May 24, 1968, A14. 

 [34] Ibid. 

 [35] Charles "Buck" Maggard, interview with the author, December 9, 1997. 

 [36] The Washington Post, "West's Poor: A Proud People," May 28, 1968, B1. 

 [37] Ibid. 

 [38] Ibid, May 24, 1968, A14. 

 [39] Ibid, April 23, 1968. 

 [40] Atlanta Journal and Constitution, Doreen Roy, "Is Poverty March Worthwhile?," May 25, 1968. 

 [41] Washington Post, June 10, 1968, A7. 

 [42] Newsweek, "What can you do for us?," June 3, 1968, p. 22. 

 [43] The Evening Star, Richard Wilson, May 1, 1968. 

 [44] James Farmer, while on speaking engagements, stopped by Resurrection City. His assessment of failure does not stand alone. Most journalists of the time agreed, as does the Poor People's Campaign principal monograph by Charles Fager. In his conclusion, Fager lamented that, "The Campaign had no momentum; it had failed both as a moral crusade and as entertainment." Fager, p. 124; Dr. James Farmer interview with the author, November 1, 1997. 

 [45] Ben W. Gilbert, Ten Blocks from the White House: Anatomy of the Washington Riots of 1968 (New York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1969), p. 198. 

 [46] Dr. James Farmer, interview with the author, November 1, 1997. 

 [47] These self-proclaimed and self-organized policing groups were widely viewed by the press as instruments that, "sometimes disturbed as well as kept order." Gilbert, p. 199. Writing in the Evening Star, Mary McGory wrote the headline "Oppressed are Oppressing" and went on to say of these self-policing activities that "The young marshals, some of whom probably have shouted themselves horse over police brutality, were pushing people around in the style to which they have become accustomed. Their orders were numerous and arbitrary. They shouted 'make way,' joined hands, shoved organizers, sympathizers and curious indiscriminately, intervened swiftly in any dialogue between poor and press." As quoted in Fager, p. 37. 

 [48] William Rutherford, oral history interview, Hampton and Fayer (eds.), Voices of Freedom, p. 480. 

 [49] For an overview of the Negro-Labor alliance please see, Philip S. Foner, Organized Labor and the Black Work: 1619-1973 (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974), pp. 332-335. 

 [50] Ibid, p. 377. 

 [51] Ibid. 

 [52] The Worker, June 26, 1968. 

 [53] George Meany, Federationist, "Labor: The Main Force for Progress," January 1968, p. 3. 

 [54] The Worker, "AFL-CIO and The March," April 28, 1968, p. 3. 

 [55] New York Times, May 28, 1968, p. 23. 

 [56] FBI SCLC File 2160, May 6, 1968. 

 [57] The Wall Street Journal, May 14, 1968, p. 1. 

 [58] Wheeling West Virginia Intelligencer, May 16, 1968, p. 33. 

 [59] The Nashville Tennessean, May 5, 1968, p. 14-A. 

 [60] The Wall Street Journal, May 14, 1968, p. 1. 

 [61] James Bevel, quoted in Fager, p. 41. 

 [62] Highlander Library, Records Group (RG) 3, Series II, Box 2, File Folder (FF) 22. 

 [63] The Highlander Collection, State Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin. "Poor People's Cultural Work Shop," Box 109, Folder 10. 

 [64] Mike Clark, interview with the author, November 26, 1997. 

 [65] Ibid. 

 [66] Buck Maggard, interview with the author, December 10, 1997. 

 [67] The Highlander Collection, The State Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin, Mike Clark to Charles Fager, December 13, 1968, Box 105, Folder 12. 

 [68] The King Center Archives, Acc. No1., Subgroup E, Series VIII, Ss 1, Box 177.6. 

 [69] For detailed narratives of the Tijerina's activities in New Mexico, please see Patricia Bell Blawis, Tijerina and the Land Grants: Mexican-Americans in Struggle for Their Heritage, (New York: International Publishers, 1971); Richard Gardner, Grito!, Reies Tijerina and the New Mexico Land Grant War of 1967 (New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1970); and, Peter Nabokov, Tijerina and the Land Grant War (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969). 

 [70] The Santa Fe New Mexican, April 26, 1968. 

 [71] The Mexican-American representatives and their numbers were given in a SCLC memorandum to Dr. William A. Rutherford from Thomas E. Houck, Jr. dated April 20, 1968. King Center Archives, SCLC papers, Box 177.20. 

 [72] Thomas E. Houck, oral history interview, Ralph Bunche Oral History Collection, Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C. 

 [73] The King Center Archives, SCLC Papers, Box 179.10. 

 [74] Richard Romero, oral history interview, Ralph Bunche Oral History Collection, Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C. 

 [75] Crusade for Justice, Denver, Colorado "Demands of the Indio-Hispano to the Federal Government," King Center Archives, Box 179.9. 

 [76] The Washington Post, June 4, 1968, A8. 

 [77] Fager, p. 55. 

 [78 Ernest Austin, oral history interview, Ralph Bunche Oral History Collection, Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C. 

 79] Michael Kline, University of Kentucky, Appalachian oral history collection, Appalachia 310, Tape #2, 910H185. 

 [80 Michael Clark to Chuck Fager, December 13, 1968, Highlander Collection, State Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin. 

 [81 Mike Clark, interview with the author, November 26, 1997. 

 [82] The Worker, "The Poor on March Learning the Root Cause of Ills," June 9, 1968, page 15. 

 [83] Ibid. 

 [84] It should be recalled, however, that not all poor Appalachians are poor white Appalachians. Mr. Cestor Pastor, a participant of the Poor People's Campaign, an Appalachian by geography and culture, and an African American by birth made that abundantly clear to the Highlander Center when he wrote from Kentucky that "I was born in a negro poor family in a 1 room log cabin miles from the nearest wagon road. On a 40 acre tract that wouldn't sprout peas. My only diet until I was a groon man was mushroom gravy. Wild greens...A few months ago I joined the Poor People's Campaign. Now I guess you don't wonder why.... I wonder why our own public servants don't speak out for us. They claim they are our friends they want to keep us, are they afraid to speak out. Are they afraid of the money men in Lecture County. I am sure they are not afraid of the helpless disabled poor." Mr. Cestor Johnson of Kentucky to The Highlander Center, Highlander Library, Box 2 FF 22. 

 [85] This study, however, does not claim that the Appalachian involvement in the Poor People's Campaign was some kind of widespread phenomena among the rural poor of the South. Instead, it merely suggests that the introduction of Appalachian people into this Campaign signifies an opportunity for class-based struggles among blacks and whites. The fact that the Poor People's Campaign failed to alleviate poverty and end the war in Vietnam is less important than the successful cooperation between poor Southern whites and poor African Americans. Fox and Piven, p. xii. 

 [86] Jody Carlson, George C. Wallace and the Politics of Powerlessness: The Wallace Campaigns for the Presidency, 1964-1976 (New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1981), p. 6. 

 [87] The King Center Archives, The SCLC papers, Box 177.6; Ernest Austin, oral history interview, Ralph Bunche Oral History Collection, Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C. 

 [88] The Highlander Center is in New Market, Tennessee and has been in existence since Miles Fall Horton founded it in 1927 as an Appalachian center for labor organization. During the 1950s and early 1960s it was directly involved in the Civil Rights movement in the South. Highlander, however, became removed from the Civil Rights movement following 1963 and was not strongly active in the movement until the opportunity of the Poor People's Campaign in 1968. John Glen's study of the Highlander originated from his Ph.D. dissertation and had originally covered the Center's activities up to 1962. A 1996 edition of the book, however, provides a sweeping final chapter covering the Highlander's activities from 1962 to 1996. The Poor People's Campaign is mentioned but not studied in the 1996 edition. For a full discussion of Highlander, please see John Glen, Highlander: No Ordinary School (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1996); and, John Glen, "Like a Flower Slowly Blooming: Highlander and the Nurturing of an Appalachian Movement," in Stephen L. Fisher, ed. Fighting Back in Appalachia: Traditions of Resistance and Change, (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993), pp. 31-56. The King Center Archives, Box 182.7 and The Highlander Center Archives, Knoxville, Tennessee, RGI I , Series III, Box 2, FF 22. 

 [89] Charles "Buck" Maggard, interview with the author, December 10, 1997. 

 [90] Tom Houck, oral history interview, Ralph Bunche Oral History collection, Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C. 

 [91] John Sherman Collection, University of Kentucky Archives. 

 [92] Mountain Life and Work: The Magazine of the Appalachian South, "CSM Endorses Poor People's Campaign," May 1968, p. 3. 

 [93] Ernest Austin, oral history interview, Ralph Bunche Oral History Collection, Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C. 

 [94] The Worker, "The Poor on March Learning the Root Cause of Ills",June 9, 1968, page 15. 

 [95] Warren I. Susman, Culture As History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), p. xxix. 

 [96] Diane DiPrima, "Revolutionary Letters: Number Nineteen (for the Poor People's Campaign)," Liberation, April 1968, p. 32. 

 [97] The King Center, Box 180:4. 

 [98] Guy Carawan, interview with the author, October 29, 1997; Michael Seeger, interview with the author, December 15, 1997 


 [100] The King Center archives, Box 180:4. 

 [101] Ibid.  

[102] Bernice Reagon, interview with the author, March 17, 1998. 

 [103] Stoney Cooks, oral history interview with Kathy Shannon, Ralph Bunche Oral History Collection, Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C. 

 [104] SCLC Papers, "Statements of Demands for Rights of the Poor," April 29-30, May 1, 1968, The King Center Archives, Box 177, File Folder 35. 

 [105] Jose Yglesias, New York Times Magazine, March 31, 1967. 

 [106] New York Times, "Abernathy Urges Whites to Prod Congress to Act," May 26, 1968, p. 70. 

 [107] The Washington Post, "The Poor: A Realist Is Called in to Save a Dream," June 2, 1968, 4E. 

 [108] New York Times, Bayard Rustin, "Call to Americans of Goodwill," June 5, 1968, p. 49. 

 [109] Ibid. 

 [110] The Washington Post, "Goals for the Poor," June 5, 1968, A20. 

 [111] New York Times, "Rustin To Assist Protest of Poor," May 25, 1968. 

 [112] Ibid, June 8,1968, page 18. 

 [113] Ibid, June 7, 1968, page 16. 

 [114] Ibid, June 8, 1968, p. 18. 

 [115] The Washington Post, "Get it Together," June 10, 1968, A20. 

 [116] New York Times, "The Poor: Campaign in Trouble," June 9, 1968, p. 65. 

 [117] New York Times, "In the Nation: Down by the Reflecting Pool," May 21, 1968, 

 [118] Washington Post, "The Goals for the Poor," June 13, 1968, A20. 

 [119] New York Times, "Hope for the Troubled Campaign," June 16, 1968, 8E. 

 [120] Washington Post, "Solidarity Day," June 16, 1968, B6. 

 [121] Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, "SCLC's National Solidarity Day: June 19, 1968," The King Center Archives, Acc. No. 1, Subgroup E, Series VIII, Ss 1,2, Box 180:2. 

 [122] New York Times, "Anger Replaces the Hopes of '63," June 20, 1968, p. 31. 

 [123] Time Magazine, "Solidarity and Disarray," June 28, 1968, p. 17. 

 [124] New York Times, "Anger Replaces the Hopes of '63," June 20, 1968, p. 31. 

 [125] The Wall Street Journal, "Nixon's Approach to Helping Blacks", by Monroe M. Karmin, December 9, 1968, p. 20. 

 [126] The Wall Street Journal, December 9, 1968, p. 20. 

 [127] Ibid. 

 [128] Richard M. Nixon, "A New Alignment for American Unity," May 16, 1968, found in William Safire, Before the Fall: An Inside View of the Pre-Watergate White House (New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1975), p. 49-50; Stephen E. Amrose, Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, 1962-1972, Volume II, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p. 154-155. 

 [129] The Wall Street Journal, December 9, 1968, p. 20. 

 [130] Bayard Rustin, "The Labor-Negro Coalition: A New Beginning," Federationist, January 1968, p. 3. 

 [131] For a full discussion on Mr. Roy Innis' ascension in CORE please see, August Meier and Elliot Rudwick, CORE: A Study in the Civil Rights movement 1942-1968, p. 423-425. 

 [132] The Wall Street Journal, December 9, 1968, p. 20. 

 [133] Hand-written journal of Michael Clark, Highlander Library, RG 1, Series II, Box 2, FF22. 

 [134] William Rutherford, oral history interview, Hampton and Fayer (eds.), Voices of Freedom, p. 480.

Selected Works Consulted


Primary Archival Sources

 The Poor People's Campaign File and personal papers of Michael Clark. The Highlander Center Archives. Knoxville, Tennessee.

 The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Papers. The King Center Archives, The King Library, Atlanta, Georgia.

 The Miles Horton and Highlander Center collections. The Wisconsin State Historical Society, Madison, Wisconsin.

 Ralph Bunche Oral History Collection. Moorland-Springarn Research Center, Howard University, Washington, D.C.

 The John Sherman Collection. The University of Kentucky Archives.

 Files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Papers, POCAM, Washington HQ File.


 Oral Interviews

 Carawan, Guy and Candie. Interview with the author, October 29, 1997.

 Clark, Michael. Interview with the author, November 26, 1997.

 Farmer, James. Interview with the author, November 1, 1997.

 Maggard, Charles "Buck." Interview with the author, December 10, 1997.

 Reagon, Bernice. Interview with the author, March 17, 1998.

 Seeger, Michael. Interview with the author, December 15, 1997.

 Williams, Hosea. Interview with the author, April 16, 1998.


Books & Articles

 Abernathy, Ralph D. And the Walls Came Tumbling Down. New York: Harper & Row, 1989.

 Carlson, Jody. George C. Wallace and the Politics of Powerlessness: The Wallace Campaigns for the Presidency, 1964-1976. New Brunswick: Transaction Books, 1981.

 Cloward, Richard A., and Frances Fox Piven. Poor People's Movements: Why They Succeed,How they Fail. New York: Vintage Books, 1979.

 Fager, Charles. Uncertain Resurrection: The Poor People's Washington Campaign. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Erdmans Publishing Company, 1969.

 Fairclough, Adam. To Redeem the Soul of America: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Martin Luther King, Jr. Athens: The University of Georgia Press.

 Garrow, David. Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. New York: William Morrow, 1986.

 Gaventa, John. Power and Powerlessness: Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1980.

 Gilbert, Ben. Ten Blocks from the White House: Anatomy of the Washington Riots of 1968. New York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1969.

 Glen, John. Highlander: No Ordinary School, 1932-1962. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1988.

 Hampton, Henry and Steven Fayer (eds). Voices of Freedom: An Oral History of the Civil Rights movement from the 1950s Through the 1980s. New York: Bantam Books, 1990.