The Poor People’s Campaign was an effort started by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Leadership Christian Conference (SCLC) in response to President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War On Poverty” initiative. The SCLC was upset that President Johnson diverted government funds originally intended for the war on poverty to the Vietnam War instead.
The Campaign and its “Committee of 100” was a multicultural group who demanded economic and equal rights for poor Americans. On this day in 1968, The Committee introduced a Bill Of Rights to Congress, then erected a 3,000-person tent city known as Resurrection City the following month.
Though King began the Campaign in 1967, his assassination in 1968 nearly derailed the movement.
Ralph Abernathy, King’s close associate, took the lead after King’s untimely death, enlisting the help of many civil rights leaders, including the aforementioned Abernathy and Jackson alongside other notables such as Rev. James Bevel, Hosea Williams, and Andrew Young. Although the Committee did not get the Bill Of Rights to pass, they did get the attention of the Johnson administration.
The Resurrection City camp elected Rev. Jesse Jackson as its city manager and it had its own zip code. But the city, full of the poor people the Campaign was trying to aid, was marred with its own problems. It rained 11 of the first 19 days the camp was in existence. The FBI was secretly spying on Resurrection City, and tensions between tent city citizens and police escalated.
After several skirmishes, police and National Guard soldiers evicted Resurrection City residents on June 24, the day the makeshift city’s permit expired.