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Organized by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Poor People's Campaign addressed the issues of economic justice and housing for the poor in the United States [1]. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We believe the highest patriotism demands the ending of the war and the opening of a bloodless war to final victory over racism and poverty” [2].



Jobs, income and housing were the main goals of the Poor People’s Campaign. The campaign would help the poor by dramatizing their needs, uniting all races under the commonality of hardship and presenting a plan to start to a solution [3]. Under the "economic bill of rights," the Poor People's Campaign asked for the federal government to prioritize helping the poor with a $30 billion anti-poverty package that included a commitment to full employment, a guaranteed annual income measure and more low-income housing [4]. The Poor People’s Campaign was part of the second phase of the civil rights movement. While the first phase had exposed the problems of segregation, King hoped to address the "limitations to our achievements" with a second, broader phase [2].

Planning and Strategy

Planning for the Poor People’s Campaign began during a five day retreat on November 27, 1967 in Frogmore, South Carolina [5]. King told his aids that the SCLC would have to raise nonviolence to a new level to pressure Congress into passing an Economic Bill of Rights for the nation’s poor. When reporters asked King about the campaign’s tactics, he sidestepped specific details and focused on the moral dimensions of the crisis [5]. The Poor People’s Campaign held firm to the movement’s commitment to non-violence. “We are custodians of the philosophy of non-violence,” said Martin Luther King, Jr. at a press conference. “And it has worked” [2].

Volunteers and Participants

Poverty afflicted a diversity of races, regions and backgrounds. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC recruited from Mississippi to Illinois and people of all walks of life came from across the nation. Most volunteers were women and many had been involved in other civil rights protests. The media often discouraged those within the movement who were committed to non-violence. Instead of focusing on issues of urban inequality and the interracial efforts concerted to address them, the media concentrated on specific incidences of violence, leadership conflicts and protest tactics [6].

Unsuccessful Ending

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The SCLC and other leaders decided to continue the campaign in King’s honor. A month later on May 12, 1968, demonstrators began a two-week protest in Washington, D.C.. The same month thousands of poor people of all races set up a shantytown known as “Resurrection City.” The city was closed down in mid-June and the economic bill of rights was never passed

See also


  1. ^ Poor People’s Campaign.
  2. ^ a b c Burns, Stewart. To The Mountaintop. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc, 2004.
  3. ^ Bishop, Jim. The Days of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1971.
  4. ^ To All Souls. “The ill fated second phase of the civil rights struggle.” 2008, April 7. <>.
  5. ^ a b McKnight, Gerald. The last crusade: Martin Luther King, Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People's Campaign. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1998.
  6. ^ Jackson, Thomas. From Civil Rights to Human Rights: Martin Luther King and the Struggle for Economic Justice. Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

External links



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