Today in labor history: Poor Peoples March began in Washington, D.C.

On this day in 1968, the Poor Peoples March began in Washington D.C., less than a month after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr. The marchers erected a tent encampment called “Resurrection City” on the Washington Mall. The protest lasted for six weeks. Promoting the march, King had said, “We ought to come in mule carts, in old trucks, any kind of transportation people can get their hands on. People ought to come to Washington, sit down if necessary in the middle of the street and say, ‘We are here; we are poor; we don’t have any money; you have made us this way…and we’ve come to stay until you do something about it.'”

King saw the march as a means of promoting an economic Bill of Rights. It called for:

  1. “A meaningful job at a living wage”

  2. “A secure and adequate income” for all those unable to find or do a job

  3. “Access to land” for economic uses

  4. “Access to capital” for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses

  5. Ability for ordinary people to “play a truly significant role” in the government

The Johnson administration prepared for the march as if it posed a threat of a takeover of the capitol and mobilized 20,000 soldiers.

Resurrection City ended peacefully.

Photo: Wikimedia (CC)


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