The Poor People's Campaign

Martin Luther King marching to help the poor. Source: (Pinterest).

On January 8, 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson addressed the nation in the State of the Union Address, proposing legislation to help combat poverty in America. The poverty rate at that point was around 19 percent. Thus began Johnson’s War on Poverty, embodying his belief that "Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it". While there were 40 programs established to combat poverty after the speech and the subsequent passage of the Economic Opportunity Act, people were angry that this “war” was not fought or even fully funded, in part because of the distractions posed by the Vietnam War.

The Poor People’s Campaign began as a reaction to this. This diverse coalition comprised of white, Latino, Indigenous, and Black Americans from all over the country was the creation of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The leaders of the campaign decided that holding a one-day demonstration was not as effective as camping out on the National Mall.