Poor People’s Campaign

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his organization, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), began planning a new march on Washington, intended to rally Congress members to pass an economic bill of rights for the nation’s poor. The campaign was not solely directed towards African Americans. King and his staff planned to bring thousands of the nation’s most disadvantaged citizens together in an interracial alliance, including Appalachian whites, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans. King had moved from focusing solely on racial issues, to considering issues of class. He began calling for the redistribution of economic and political power. King, in fact, visited the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1965 to speak on the necessity of fair employment legislation (see news film footage). Unfortunately, while planning the Poor People’s campaign, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. In the aftermath of his slaying, rioting occurred in more than 100 cities. The SCLC decided to follow through with the campaign that began on April 16, 1968. Several Milwaukee Youth Council Commandos attended the march. EM