Little Known Black History Fact: Resurrection City

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  • On May 12, 1968, over 2,500 activists from Mississippi arrived by bus in Washington, D.C. for a gathering of mass protest that was planned to be long-term at the National Mall. An architect named John Wiebenson secured five acres around the Reflecting pool in Washington in order to build a small independent city with its own stores, hospital and city hall. This town of protest at our nation's capitol came to be known as “Resurrection City.” It was part of the Poor People’s Campaign for civil rights.

    Resurrection City was built and maintained in a rainstorm. In the first 19 days of the protest, the city was filled with water. The goal of the Resurrection City protestors was to bring awareness of the lack of freedom and jobs for blacks, a civil right yet to be of widespread practice, despite the laws passed in 1964.

    The project was carried forth by Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who spearheaded the effort after Dr. King was assassinated. The Rev. Jesse Jackson had been dubbed the city manager of Resurrection City. Building a co-existence with its own civil liberties, the group planned a peaceful rally on June 19th (the same day as the Juneteenth celebration), which resulted in a grand protest of 50,000 people around the National Mall by June 23rd.

    It was reported that during the rally, police threw a tear-gas bomb into the crowd of protestors, while the police blamed the disturbance on the protestors. The result was a mass riot and excavation of Resurrection City, its residents and the plywood town they had built in protest. By June 24th, Resurrection City was gone. Those who remained in the area or returned were arrested and the items left were shipped to a Navy yard for claim.
     

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