The Poor People’s Campaign Launches a Season of Activism

The Poor People’s Campaign, a revival of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther’s King Jr.’s great unfinished work, will launch 40 days of nonviolent, direct action starting Sunday, May 13.

A march is set for Washington, D.C., with additional marches in 30 other cities around the country. The 40 days will culminate on Saturday, June 23, with a national mobilization in Washington. (For details on the marches, click here.)

The six weeks of public action mirror the rollout of the first Poor People’s Campaign in the spring of 1968. The original campaign was organized by King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In the wake of King's assassination on April 8, 1968, minister and civil rights activist Ralph Abernathy carried the torch forward. The Poor People's Campaign demanded economic and human rights for poor Americans of diverse backgrounds. After presenting a set of demands to Congress, participants set up a protest camp on the Washington Mall, where they stayed for six weeks.

On Jan. 14, 2018, the revival of the Poor People’s Campaign was announced by the Rev. Dr. James Forbes from the pulpit of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church during a national interfaith service marking the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. The service was co-sponsored by Drum Major Institute, Healing of the Nations Foundation and Repairers of the Breach.

"We need what Dr. King called a moral revolution of values," said the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, co-chair of the campaign. "We’ve been called. We can't have another commemoration service and just talk about what he did. We have to begin to follow him and reimagine and do what he did in the times in which we live. We must go down, to the nation’s capital and the capitals of every state, until the voices of the poor are heard."

In April the Poor People’s Campaign and the Institute for Policy Studies released a 120-page report on poverty and inequality, racism, environmental degradation and militarism. Titled The Souls of Poor Folk, the report assesses the combined impact of various social forces on the poor. Of the 41 million Americans currently living below the poverty line, the largest share are white (42.%), followed by Latinx (27.4%) and black (22.7%).

To lend your voice to the Poor People's Campaign, click here.


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