tv 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign CSPAN February 10, 2018 5:00pm-6:01pm EST
museum of african american history and culture recently opened an exhibit looking at the 1968 poor people's campaign, which martin luther king jr. organized to shift the focus of the civil issues.ovement to he was assassinated before the campaign got underway in washington, d.c. a panel of activists and smithsonian museum staff look at this legacy. this is about one hour. >> it is our pleasure to welcome you to this meeting events for city of hope. you are in for a wonderful discussion from some brilliant people. it is my pleasure to be the deputy director of the national museum of african american history and culture. we are going to get started in a moment. i want you to know who these
lovely young men are. they are both named mark. mark mario, distinguished president of the national urban steiner, who is a brilliant journalist and a former and current activist in social justice. you will hear a lot more from him. they will be joined by more people you will see shortly. started, i would like to bring to the podium one of my favorite people at the smithsonian. he is a distinguished leader of this institution. his official title is the elizabeth mcmillan director of the smithsonian national museum of american history. he is part of our top collaborators in the work that we do, particularly with the exhibition space we have at the american museum, john.
[applause] >> good morning, it is a pleasure to welcome all of you to the international museum of american history. if ever there is a time in america when we need historic understanding, as well as museums that present history in theireople can understand role in democracy, it is today. it shows you the prime example we have a major show on american democracy. theof the key components is way citizens can participate in our nation. one of the key ways of doing that is through protest. honoring protest and understanding it in the context of a larger arc of america history is important. i would also say we have been to haveand privileged our wonderful neighbor in this
building providing extraordinary shows. it has also been an honor to watch the development of the museum next door. working with them and understanding ways in which american history is presented that includes all of us over the is of our history fundamentally important to where we are going in the future. thank the whole team of enormously for what they have done, what they have taught us. most important, what we are all going to do together to help us understand who we are, why we are here, and where we are going. thank you all very much. [applause] report we haveo , who youed by peter
will be hearing from later. of thepromised, one folks who makes all that we do possible is our founding director. he is our north star, lonnie bunch is a veteran of the smithsonian institution, former director of the chicago houston -- history museum. for over 13 years, he has done the work to lead with his vision, the creation of the national museum of african american history and culture. he has traveled the country and the world gathering artifacts, making friends, raising a lot of money, and getting a wonderful team of colleagues, some of whom are with us today. in this not be
situation of having a museum that has been called a gift to america without his leadership. join the in welcoming the founding director of the smithsonian's 19 stimulants military -- museum, lonnie bunch. [applause] good morning, everybody. i am so pleased that you are here. i am pleased because this is an important moment for us, for the smithsonian, for the city of washington. thank you for being with us for this media briefing. thank youst of all for the leadership you have given for more than a decade in helping shape the museum. i also want to acknowledge the partnership we have had with john gray. the museum of american history has been our closest collaborator and most important partners.
just like in the exhibition we have done, it it is made better by the touch of american history. thank you very much for your involvement. i'm pleased to have our special , who will share their perspectives on this important story later. thank you for being with us. 2018, there will be so much attention and discourse about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of martin luther king jr.. at the national museum of african american history and culture, we decided to his knowledge the moment by helping the public remember his legacy and the issues, some of which are still unleaded, that he challenged america to address. while many celebrate his leadership for the battle for a just for racial justice, and his last campaign, the struggle for economic justice, is often
undervalued and less understood. when recalling resurrection city, people often remember the rain and the mud, but not the meaning. the brief duration of 43 days, went resurrection city was populated, but not its long-term impact. often people think that after resurrection city, the war on poverty was one. to understand the poor people's campaign, it is essential to remember the year of 1968. it was the year when all of the pain, violence, hatred, fragmentation, and all the hope of the 1960's seemed to combust. americaas volatile -- was volatile and fragile with political, racial, and generational chasms over the war in vietnam, the long hot summers of urban unrest, the murder of dr. king, and later the murder of robert kennedy.
uncertaintypain and emerged the poor people's campaign. it was shaped by both hurt and hope. it sought to find a way to a multi racial collaboration, to alleviate the poverty that defined too many communities. this exhibition allows us to appreciate the planning, the sacrifices, and the commitment to fulfill dr. king's dreams at the heart of the poor people's campaign. it also repositions dr. ralph abernathy as an effective leader of the post king civil rights movement. while it is clear resurrection city did not end poverty, it did help focus america's attention on the vast and diverse array of americans trapped by poverty. by examining the six-week encampment on the national mall, it is hard not to see the
residence -- residents of the poor people's campaign. the mall has been the site of some in the moments where people have demanded a change in america. thisan americans used expanse of land from the lincoln memorial to the capital to from marianity anderson in 1939, to the march on washington in 1963, to the poor people's campaign, to the million man march. it has become sacred space to ask america to change. the images and artifacts within this exhibition are reminders that despite the economic growth and prosperity that has shaped this nation since 1968, there are still millions of americans without access to the american dream of economic opportunity. we hope this exhibition encourages visitors to re-examine dr. king as somebody who demanded an america where
economic opportunity would accompany demand for equal political and social rights. the poore strengths of people's campaign was this ability to bring together people of many different backgrounds, african-americans, latinos, native american, white americans, they shared one common thing. they shared an understanding of the pain of poverty. they shared a commitment to using that diverse coalition to prod, to push, to demand america live up to the promise of the constitution and the declaration. like dr. king, they dreamed of an america that not yet existed. they were willing to sacrifice so much to make it so. exhibition says it can help america be better, help live up to our ideals.
the best way to honor the ultimate sacrifice of dr. king is to cross those boundaries that divide, boundaries of race, gender, ethnicity, to demand a fair and freer america. thank you very much for being with us this morning. [applause] i also would like to ask the curator of exhibition to join us . --er that terrific framing we want you up here. you are the curator. i want to remind everyone that we are live streaming today's event. it is #cityofhope.
link onfind the exact twitter. the letters my colleague sent me are too small for me to see. after the ht tp, i am lost. #cityofhope. you will find the brilliant tweets they have done. we are going to start with questions of the panelists that i am going to raise. then we are going to follow with questions from you. it won't be long, be ready. i will start with mark. he is not only the distinguished president of the national urban league, the largest civil rights organization in this country, one of the oldest, he is also the former mayor of new orleans. he is only 25 years old. tell us the role of major civil
rights organizations like the urban league, the naacp, the legal defense fund, the power .ehind this days tell us about the role of those national organizations in galvanizing people for action. and what that looks like today. >> good morning. happy new year. i will have to excuse my stuff at about 9:29. i have to catch a 10:00 train to philadelphia to make another presentation at noon. this is what is important reflecting back 50 years. the historic civil rights , the naacp, the national urban make, the southern christian leadership conference, the naacp legal defense fund, national council of negro league and were united
in the 1960's to do things. the march on washington as an example. made ofre is differences, the historical record demonstrates that these organizations worked together in unison, even with some spirited debate about whether the best direct was litigation or action in protest, or whether the best actions were later on a more militant and strident approach that was championed by many young people. what is striking to me about 1968 and about this campaign is economic bill the of rights was published by the poor people's campaign is today. they published a bill of rights.
i am going to read it because i think this is the heart of why i believe what this should be about is we now must pick up the baton of the 1968 poor people's campaign and run a new. the first bill of rights was meaningful job at a living wage. an second was secure adequate income for those who cannot find a job or do a job. for economicd uses. access to capital for poor promotend minorities to their own businesses. ability for ordinary people to play a truly significant role in the government. this poor people's campaign, bych was really an iteration
martin luther king to do a number of things. two. and expand to a focus -- to pivot and to expand in a determined way. the 64 civil rights act and 65 voting rights act were important tools and pillars, but they were missing dynamics in how people's quality of life could be improved. the second thing determined about this poor people's campaign was it was multicultural, multiracial. there was an intentional effort whites,together for latinos, and african-americans in a concerted, visible effort to push this economic bill of rights. where historic civil
rights organizations are, we continue to carry the banner in many respects. we are now extremely active not only in litigation and direct action, but many of us are active in a very concerted way around impacting public policy. whether it is congress or the the agencies, the state capitals, city halls, county halls, municipal courts, we are active in ways that do not always make front-page news. they do not always generate a conversation on cable political news. in many ways, we remain the sustainable, reliable, consistent infrastructure that continues to fight for the vision not only of martin luther lewis,hitney young, john
roy wilkins, thurgood marshall, malcolm x, and many of the great leaders who championed civil rights, human rights, and economic justice in the 1960's. we are the inheritors and legatees of that. we work every day to see how we can push it. today, there has to be a renewed peopleto help poor white , poor black people, poor latinos, working whites, working black, and working latinos, that they have more in common when it comes to economic issues then in the vision with each other. in today's america, coulter and race, -- culture and race, culture -- they have divided the body politics. think so simple --
something so simple leg raising minimum wage can't find the light of day. state have said forget the congress, forget the president, we will do it on our own. things cannotnt get done because politics of race, politics of culture gets in the way. we have always had a distinct .ocus on economic issues we put tremendous effort into trying to derail this recently passed tax bill. tremendous effort into trying to why theple understand country could do better. and why the problems of economic disparities are real. ago, 2016, we did the
40th anniversary report of the state of black america. gave us a chance to take an introspective look at how far we have come. the truth is the country made 1963 to 1976s from when it comes to the reduction of poverty and improvement of living conditions for people at the bottom of the economic ladder. since 1976, relative economic disparities have not changed much. the distance in income, home ownership, the stagnation of wages. since 2000, the average working american in the bottom 80% has becauseut a 10% pay cut
their wages are keeping up with inflation. that is the here and now. we have an opportunity -- last thing. is not to make 68 a year of nostalgia, where we look back and all we do is reflect. and we say what might have been. but to use this time to renew the commitment to economic justice in poor people. >> thank you very much. [laughter] -- [applause] next question is to peter braided he is no stranger to the movement for social justice. he has dedicated his life to it. please fill in the remaining seats, folks who are waiting to get in, there are seats.
duck under the cameras when you come in. lawyer, an american policymaker, and law professor at georgetown university. parts a witness and active of the movement, the moment that brought us to resurrection city and the poor people's campaign. a former justice department official and also member of the staff of senator robert s kennedy, whose two work of the mississippi delta -- whose tour was a mississippi delta pivotal part of what led us to resurrection city. tell us about the genesis of that moment. bring us back to the time. we do not want to be washed in nostalgia, but history counts and matters. give us a sense of what that
meant. you just want to say thank , andnnie bunch and jackie everyone associated with this. it is so important to us and our family in a personal way. -- tot to bring this back bring this back is vital and important for our country. thank you to everyone who made this happen today. zoellickttle bit like in this story. true that we had met in in 19 67,i earlier that ended the stage in our lives by getting married.
we're coming to 50 years later this year. it is personal for us. the relevance to our conversation today is marion would have gotten to be quite friendly with robert kennedy, as well as with me. they liked each other a lot. robert kennedy had very good taste in the people he chose to be -- who he respected. was in, i believe it , came out, was in town. he said why didn't marion and i come out to his house for lunch, which we did. of lunch, he said i would like to take a swim in the
pool then we can go back to work. he was in the pool and we were sitting on the side. he said where are you going when you go from here? she said i'm going down to see dr. king, we will be talking with him about what we should do next. they were searching. those were difficult times, as we all know in terms of the and dr. king had taken andmovement north earlier outside of chicago, that was difficult. it was very clear going back to themarch in 1963 that issues had to go from the question of rights to the
question of what you can do with that and primarily whether people have good jobs that they would be able to support their families and be part of the american dream. was what next? marion said to him do you have any thoughts. robert kennedy said yeah, actually. ishink what you should do ring people to washington to stay and keep on staying until people in washington get sick of it and decide to do the right thing. there were some other possibilities.
that was the thought, it would be such a great statement of the .eeds with regard to poverty king andok that to dr. , that is howolved the poor people's campaign started. you played a little role in this. give us two or three words on what maybe you did. i know you still have the love story of the century, but give it up a little bit. about your role in particular. >> i was working for robert kennedy. my role was to be on his staff, one of his legislative assistance.
life.nged my in the sameged direction having worked with robert kennedy, because i had the opportunity to go with him and i think everyone knows the way he learned. had to touch things, he has to to hear from people, he had to see people. he read in all of the other ways we learn. he went to places united states , most oftenn't senators from the same state didn't go out to see low income people whether it was in cities or rural areas. i learned from that. it changed my life because i have been working on those
issues ever since then. >> our second mark, mark steiner is the founding president and ceo of the center for emerging media. before he had gray hair, he was an important activist, his oral history is upstairs in the exhibition. he had a particular role in working with white folks from appalachia, an important part of the multiracial, multigenerational prohibition that led to the poor people's campaign. bring us back to those times and tell us about your role, and why you are still such an activist today. thank you for coming down -- thank you for asking me to come down today. 22, and had been
connected with a group called the young patriots of chicago. they came out of the union for jobs and income now, a serious organizing project across the united states. founding mother of that movement was a woman named peggy kerry. lightory was brought to and used numerous times. peggy came from a ku klux klan family, she had been a member. served six years in prison for manslaughter, he was also a member. he became the founder of the young patriots. who were the young patriots? chicago was a place where people from the south, alabama, and mississippi came north to, whether you are white or black. wentant to chicago -- you
to chicago. the of the white folks from mount of tennessee, mounds of alabama, mississippi, ended up in chicago. it was called uptown. uptown was a poor white ghetto. town was a gained in that called the goodfellas. gained was a gained of street kids. they were organized by youngblood, peggy, and others. a guy who is here the other weeks was one of the last remaining patriots in the country. his 20 brother was loath him. i found and loath him. everybody had to have a street name. clinic, asd a free the panthers did.
they were part of the original rainbow coalition, the black panthers, the young lords, the brown the young lawyers, the brown berets, in chicago area and they formed a group that really got the establishment and made the td ary upset because it was coming together of poor communities across racial lines. to give you a sense of what that inns, it was a way of living resurrection city. it was a place in chicago where a number of panthers were there. the person who founded the rainbow coalition. it was his idea. bobby lea is the one who started it. lobby just passed away.
i remember this older white guy in the back of the room stand up. he said -- i'm not going to use the word -- but he said, if that -- ifey are doing, that that is what the n's are doing, i'm marching with them. bobby lea walked over and hugged him. that's why they were walking together. after a while, the man learns that was not the word to use and his consciousness was raised. this battle about poor whites import blacks was about changing consciousness and fighting a struggling together and it changed a lot. they came down from chicago to resurrection city. i just want to add two things. made.of demands were
it is important to remember some of them because it is relevant to 2018. is 1968. one of those demands was $35 -- -- 1968$1968 dollars. , everyvery slum was gone house would have to be rebuilt. those are some of the demands. appalachia,to farmers in mississippi and alabama and georgia, as chicago farmers in the southwest united states demanding land. for themselves, land that was stolen. those were all really important. we had this encampment.
people came from chicago. i was already living in d.c. i was working back and forth from chicago, but i was watching -- working with the washington free press. had thempment actually confederate flag flying in the --r white cap, month town mugtown. one of the symbols on the jacket of the patriot was the confederate flag. these meant different things. it could mean racism. but it also meant rebellion. people got really sick in that camp.
they stopped in dayton. they said that the food was poisoned along the way. was thereabout this was a lot of tension inside the camp and a lot of love inside that cap. -- the story were about how many of the gang members were paid by the police to disrupt the camp. there was that tension. you knew there were 10 -- that tension was there because there the gang members with campaign and gang members who are causing trouble all the time in the cap. so the tension was there. and there was tension inside the livedetween activists who in the mods, in the huts, like
we did, and people who stayed in the hotel. we actually marched into the day. and a -- one they were eating at the restaurant at a table while we out of pots in the mud. we didn't like that. martin luther king wanted this to happen. he believed is a black life movement. disrupt washington, d.c. 24 hours a day, civil disobedience, to change the nature of america. this is what he wanted when he died. when he was assassinated, the mantle was picked up. one of the most important moments that we have forgotten history is resurrection city. . i will close with this the last day in that city, for those of -- those of ust,
who are left were attacked by the police with bulldozers and teargas. they tore down the camp. many people were arrested. that was a day i will never forget because i can still feel and taste the tear gas and how and child got out of the camp so they would not be heard by the gas and talk about bobby kennedy. i will never forget that they -- bobbyby kennedy was went past the camp and stopped and everybody moved. thousands of people came to surround that moment when the casket stopped and the train stopped and people spontaneously began singing the battle hymn of the republic as his body pas sed.
that was huge. ? even though i didn't believe it, i realize now that bobby kennedy was a man who changed dramatically as a human being, a politician in this country. i did not understand that than. then, he was one of those establishment figures. think about that. in retrospect, i had to understand who he was at that moment and why somebody people were crying and singing when his casket passed the cap. so -- the camp. so i will leave it there. >> this is living history, everybody. a curator and photographer at the museum. he is a brilliant young man who created this exhibition. i want to say one word about the difference of when you put visual history to the lens of visual culture. then i will ask lonnie about one of his favorite subjects.
to ask you this question about ambiguity. they don't know it. come on. how about you answer that first? all right. the hashtag is #visualculture68. >> you are going to see a lot of graphics, protest signs and media pieces. outside the gallery space, we discovered the first footage of the entire campaign essentially followed the caravans following from memphis, right after -- and also, they recorded the king memorial service and then all of the caravan from memphis, which really started the campaign, all
the way up to the evacuation of resurrection city and its inevitable demolition. this is incredible footage we found. it has never been seen before. we are presenting it for the very first time here in this exhibition. we also have surveillance media that we are prevailing -- resenting. that has been seen only by a few people. we are presenting kit publicly for the first time. photographers who are representing robert houston, who is here in the audience. [applause] we also have laura jones, who is right here in the front row. she is a photographer we are presenting. [applause] as well as photographs by roland freeman, joe friedman, ron, t, and claire watkins. i would say with the claire
watkins, these are also new discoveries. we found about 1600 frames of photographs of caravans coming to resurrection city. they had not been seen before. when they heard about this exhibition, they called and asked if we would like to have the negatives transferred to our collection. of course, we said yes. the other thing to say about the color.ion is about the generally, with the civil rights exhibitions, we are accustomed to seeing photographs and media images in black and white. which iswe are doing, innovative, is showing the civil rights movement, particularly one that honors the memory of king's life and memory, we are showing them in color. i have been studying civil rights images for a long time.
it's red to see so much color in an exhibition. it also speaks to the importance of a visual culture, particularly at this time in our nation's history, 1968, a transformative period. and the visual culture reflects that. >> thank you. thank you all panelists. jaden and ginge. i will open the floor for questions. if you want to direct your question to a particular panelist, please do so. yes, please.
as thoughtful people in our auntry, is that we have made great deal of things, policies, that make a huge difference. in the 1960's, poverty was cut in half. in 1959, we had 22% of our people living in poverty. 11%.73, it was the number of reasons for that, the civil rights movement was one of the major reasons and that. african-american poverty went 32% inom 55% in 1959, to 1973. is still not acceptable, but now it is about 23%. we've been making a difference. the policies we have, the
programs we have, whether it is social security, food stamps, income tax credit, a huge series of things, the factors -- the we would have twice as many people in party, 90 million people. we should be shouting that from the mountain tops. these policies or programs of people want to cut into or get rid of our making tremendous difference in the lives of people in a country. we need to say that over and over and over. what do we do know? number one, we fight back what is going on. that is absolutely what we have to do. the fact that we still have 43 million people who are poor, there's some reasons for that.
. yes, we could have done more with public policy. but it is a changed economy. the deindustrialization of our are ay has left us -- we low-wage nation. nobody in our nation are really addressing that. end md to and mass -- ass incarceration, improve education, a lot of things that need to be there. but in the heart of it is jobs, just like in 1963, just as it was in 1968. give people a decent income. now how.
it to her. there will be an up -- a tour. tore will be an opportunity facilitate. as small civil lever thisups exhibition to do better coalition building across the american narrative, across the geographies that are american? and how do we support you in this work? >> that's a very tough question. [laughter] in three minutes or less. >> much less. let's try 30 seconds. if you're lucky. >> i can do that. the difference now and then is a
i would -- i grew up in a working-class neighborhood, it was a tough neighborhood. there were fights. things happened on the corner all the time. just the nature of that. but there were no abandoned houses. worked, low wages. cohesive communities. completelye people abandoned and with no community centers. >> i have to interrupt you. we have a lot of people in our public program.
i will big wanted to answer a question around that -- i will exit lonnie to answer a question like that. >> the most important thing to realize is that history is as much as much about today and tomorrow as it is about yesterday. our job is too, help you remember, to remember these stories, to remember this history. but not out of nostalgia, but to give you a useful history. in essence, it is to inspire them at the challenge, to remind us of what is possible. for me, an exhibition like this is really a wonderful time to thank those who were involved, but more importantly a stepping stone to say the great strength of america have been the people that have challenged, that have prodded, that have demanded idlib to its state of ideals. we have a responsibility to help
america be america. >> thank you. as a gen xer, not to discover.ut learn and the pooraware of people's campagne. the martinget out luther king light. didink what our generation was take the past and flip the script. if martin luther king came here now, how would you rework his dream? how he would flip the script.
anything you can offer, things we can story about what his perspective was her people who lived it or historians who have some perspective, ways we can take that, either rework it for the next 50, 100 years, or to flip the script to move us forward. and is it even in reality -- even a reality to get rid of the poor? jesus said the poor you will have with you always. >> just because it is a reality, it doesn't mean you can't change it. there was a time when nobody believed you would get rid of slavery. there was a time you never believed that segregation would end. those were realities that were bigger than we may think we are facing today. but history tells us is each generation needs to take that history, reframe it, draw from it, use it as a means to
challenge. no one is saying looking back at the past give to the five steps to the promise land. it tells you it is possible to find that promise land. you have to figure today what works best. see king now tweeting his way. baseline there is a for information. -- one of theof few places that will give you unvarnished truth. it's there for you. suit -- that's why the smithsonian is every. >> i want you to join me in
thanking our guests. [applause] >> this weekend, on american history tv on c-span 3, sunday at 10:00 a.m. eastern from the west point center for oral history, kenneth carlson talks about growing up in a military family and his service in vietnam. >> we go out to this bunker and it had an actual dewpoint -- viewpoint reconceived -- where you could see. explosions are going often these men are scared to death. arkansas said that kind of looks at the fourth of july. i said, no it, -- no, it doesn't. and she said, why? i said, people are dying. when that happens, people are dying. that does not happen at the fourth of july. and she started crying.
>> the united states team is causing plenty of unexpected excitement here. underdogs.regame now, they have upset all predictions by winning this game. >> at 8:00 p.m. eastern on the presidency, scholars explore the relationships between presidents ronald reagan, george w bush, and miguel board -- and mikael gorbachev. >> when you look back in 1989 when bush comes in and look at gorbachev in 1990 and 1991, from gorbachev's point of view, bush is not measuring up to what reagan had been. >> watch american history tv every weekend on c-span 3. >> american history tv is on c-span 3 every weekend,
featuring museum tours, archival films, and programs on the presidency, the civil war and more. here is a clip from a recent program. states987, the united and the soviets find the intermediate range nuclear forces treaty. wasart of the inf treaty witnessing a elimination of certain classes of missiles. here in theed i united states and soviet territory. 1990, in kazakhstan, a d iplomat was chief of the
arms. the entourage would go to a safe location and they were destroyed. the soviet military had actually reserved some of the debris from previous illumination activity and contracted with a local businessman to create these fantastic little sculptures. the soviets then gave these sculptures to their american counterparts as sort of a celebration of the last of the destruction of the missiles. you can see the soviet flag, the u.s. flag, and then this very beautifulg and quite -- it is evocative of turning your swords into a beautiful piece of art.
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