tv History Bookshelf Gordon Mantler Power to the Poor CSPAN July 1, 2018 8:00am-9:06am EDT
got started in washington, d.c. gordon recounts the campaign of 1960. it looks at the relationship between african-americans and mexican-americans in the movement. this was reported in durham, north carolina, in 2013. it is about one hour. [applause] gordon: thanks, tom. i appreciate it. thank you, everyone, for being here tonight. i appreciate it. i feel a little like an airline pilot and telling you i know we have choices, and so thank you for flying southwest. there are at least three other events going on tonight about economic justice, poverty, and human rights. i think that says a lot about
the community we live in durham and how much we care about these issues and engage with them, and it also says a lot about the state of the country that these are issues we are still talking. but i really appreciate you being here. i also want to thank tom for having me here. it means a lot to launch the book here. we moved to durham in 2002. i started the graduate program in the history department in the fall of 2002. and i had heard about the regulator before even moving to durham from other folks in the academy and people who do history or just love to read. i came here as an avid reader, and i brought my books here and now as someone who teaches at duke in the writing program, i order my textbooks through here. so if there is anybody that is an academic that doesn't order their textbooks through the regulator, you should.
you should see tom for that. so it means a lot to be here tonight and to start this here. as tom said, the plan will be to talk for 35 or 40 minutes at the most, and i will do some reading from the book, and i look forward to a robust dialogue and questions and answers at the end for the next 20 or 25 minutes after that, and then i will sign some books over there. if they can read my chicken scratch, right? so that is the plan. this year, we are going to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a number of civil rights flashpoints. 1963 was a pretty important year in the civil rights movement or what i will call the black freedom struggle for the rest of the talk.
and none will be more celebrated than the march on washington that happened on august 28, 1963. i think we can imagine that the focus will be -- this is probably what we are going to see a lot of. dr. king, the celebrity of dr. king, and the "i have a dream" speech. maybe there will be some mention of the complexity of the march on washington, the labor unions and the labor activists who made it possible and did all of the organizing. maybe we will hear about the full name of the march on washington, which was the march on washington for jobs and freedom, and maybe we will even hear about the kennedy administration's horror about this march. they didn't want this to happen. they were concerned that it would lead to violence, to the point that president kennedy shut down the government other than for the essential personnel
on the day that this occurred in 1963. but, i am pretty certain that the commemoration is mostly going to focus on dr. king and i have a dream. and i know that -- we all know this, and most of us can recite parts of it and chunks of it especially towards the end. it's a great speech. it's optimistic, hopeful, it is king at his best when it comes to the delivery and the style and emotional appeal, but it also freezes dr. king in 1963 in this moment. he is talking about equality and brotherhood, which are fine themes and a fine message, but it freezes him and obscures the complexity of king and of the black freedom struggle and the complexity of the 1960's. so tonight i want to talk more about another march, the poor people's campaign in 1968, which is what dr. king was working on when he was assassinated in memphis. alarmed by what he saw as a vicious circle of violence by
the state with police harassment and brutality or, as well, u.s. military involvement in southeast asia and then the response by frustrated african-americans and very frustrated at the slow pace of change and civil rights change particularly in urban areas in the north and west. dr. king despaired in late 1967 that he thought the united states was moving quickly towards a fascist, towards fascism, towards a fascist state, but the inevitable response to the violence that is occurring both by the police and the rioters, both the signal and symbolism of vietnam was sending was that we are quickly turning towards fascism. and so in december of 1967 he announces the poor people's campaign, in which his
organization, the southern christian leadership conference, china will refer to as the -- as the will refer to scla for the rest of the talk, would bring waves of the nation's poor and disinherited to washington, d.c. to demand redress of the grievances by the government to secure the jobs and income for all adding that the poor would stay until america responds. but he envisioned this campaign has not just black and white but one that included mexican-americans, puerto ricans and native americans as well and he had hoped the campaign would do a number of things. three primary goals. transform fully the struggle of civil rights to a struggle of human rights, bring about the federal government's re-dedication to the war on poverty, declared four years earlier by president lyndon johnson, but never fully funded and to hopefully restore the credibility of nonviolence and social justice organizing, which had lost ground considerably and
calls for any means necessary and armed self-defense, particularly through the black power movement. that will lead to my first excerpt here that in some ways captures why it's so important and how it's been treated up to this point by most scholars and the public memory. "the crusade blossomed into the most ambitious campaign ever undertaken by king and the southern christian leadership conference. the campaign, which king didn't live to see, has been dismissed by journalists, scholars, king biographers, and even some activists as either irrelevant or a disastrous coda to the black freedom struggle. one former official referred to the campaign as the little big horn of the civil rights movement, an eye-catching but
rather imprecise analogy because it is not clear who lakota and general custer are in that analogy. it often was with symbolism. it didn't spark a war on poverty or nonviolent strategy, and it did not achieve many of the stated goals including the new deal style jobs program. yet a closer look at the campaign reveals a unique and remarkably instructive experiment to build a multiracial movement designed to wage a sustained fight against poverty. even amid the cacophony of assassinations and the political turmoil that spring, the campaign captured the attention and imagination. only in washington in the spring of 1968 did the local, regional and activists as symbols of many different backgrounds from veterans in the labor and southern civil-rights movement activists of the american indian struggles attempt to construct the physical and spiritual community explicitly about justice and poverty that went
beyond just a one-day rally. the campaign highlighted how multiracial coalitional politics operated alongside the identity politics of black and chicano power. that relationship was messy at times and exacerbated by other forces. ultimately activists such as martin luther king, jesse andson, marian wright, thousands of others did not choose either identity politics or coalitional politics. they chose both and participated in both." so this last part, and most of those names i think are recognizable, and a few of them i will explain a little bit. the last part, the relationship between coalition and identity or class and race is central to the book. the public memory -- most scholars still break down the 1960's into two pieces. the decade is seen as the good
1960's and the bad 1960's, so the good 1960's are the moment of kennedy liberalism and the early civil rights coalition that is most active in the early 1960's up to 1964 or 1965 but then this coalition -- this is how the narrative is normally told -- the coalition evolves devolves into conflict, urban uprisings, black power, and identity politics. the reality -- what i argue is that coalition and conflict are always in existence. there isn't this declension narrative from good to bad. class and race really are not at odds with each other all the time, but they are mutually interdependent and reinforcing, and i think the poor people's campaign is a great illustration of this process and this relationship. it takes months for people to hear dr. king's call.
especially outside of the traditional civil rights circles. sclc hasn't really reached out to chicanos, american indians, or anyone beyond the traditional civil rights white liberal kind of constituency. so this is a new thing for them. the minority group conference, which he announces in early march, is where he invites 80 some activists from across the country, all across the spectrum of the left, to come to atlanta for a conference on march 14th, 1968, for him to pitch with the -- pitch to them what the poor people's campaign was all about and why they should be involved. it really is a remarkable moment that has been almost completely forgotten in the history books. we never talk about this when we talk about dr. king usually, but i think it is one of the most important moments in the last years of his life and certainly one of the most important
achievements in the sense of the poor people's campaign, just getting all these folks in the same room together to talk about what they have in common and their differences as well. some of the most important leaders of the chicano movement are present. lopez, who i mentioned earlier. the land grant rights leader from new mexico whose cause which goes back to the 19th century was that people of mexican descent in new mexico and southern colorado were poor because of the loss of land, land that was stolen from them at the end after the mexican war that was supposed to be protected by the treaty of guadalupe hidalgo of 1848, but that is taken from them over a generation or two. if this land is restored, these people wouldn't be poor.
he built a movement in mexico that gained more attention from chicano activists around the southwest and nationally. so here he is sitting right next to dr. king. we have a mexican-american leader from california who cut his teeth in labor organizing in the 1930's and 1940's in southern california and then founded a political organization called the mexican-american political association in california. jose gutierez who is one of the founders of the mexican-american youth organization in texas, then corkie gonzalez, a boxer turned political turned chicano movement leader, one of the more charismatic folks to come out of the chicano movement in denver. and so, he will be pretty prominent in the poor people's campaign. these two gentlemen do not make
it to the campaign, but they are a part of the initial stage and organizing. in addition to the chicano movement, there are welfare rights activists here. there are members of, you know, the liberal, the religious left the american friends service committee, which you may know as the activist arm of the quakers, the national council of churches is represented. there are american indian activists who are interested in treaty rights and interested in fishing rights. the ability to fish in ancestral waters that were once protected by treaties signed in the late 18th and early 19th centuries that were being prosecuted for doing that kind of fishing. there were student leaders, coal miners that worked around environmental and land issues as well. so all these people were together in this one place, and here king pitches the idea for the campaign. one that was not just about how sclc defines poverty and the
solutions to poverty, but talking to them about how do you define your poverty? what are the solutions to it? these are not the same thing and i think this is one of the interesting points that the poor people's campaign highlights. how these folks define poverty and justice. that leads to my next excerpt. "king made a speech for the radical redistribution of political and economic power. participants were told that the speech focused on a familiar critique of the nation's economic system and the vietnam war as well as the need for jobs and income for the nation's poor. gesture,or -- a rare -- alked about he referenced slaves in the newly freed south, which attempted to bind the cause of african-americans with native americans.
in joining the delegates to join what was now a human rights effort, king concluded that the nation has mixed up priorities and that we must think of the david of truth against the goliath of injustice. the poor people's campaign was designed to get the nation right side up but it was only possible if the people in the room joined sclc that spring. after dr. king received his applause, it showcased the anxious energy of the activists present, not to mention the vastly different ways those present sought to combat poverty. others asked, do you want just our support or our demands to include in the whole ball of wax? characteristically more pointed, arguing that if king wanted to confer with chicanos, he must understand that conferring is a two-way street. he repeated such concerns and
captivated the room with a fist pounding, table rattling defense of the land-grant struggle, the treaty of waterloo bay had hidalgo, anddalupe the destruction that violence and armed self-defense proposed. whites are afraid of their own crimes, he cried. they are not afraid of violence. the liberty bell cracked in rebellion against the betrayal against the country. he concluded by asking about abernathy standing in for dr. king that evening as he -- if he supported the treaty, and he responded that they were with him and spirit, and the room exploded with applause." over the next several hours, you can sense the tension. they're not sure what to make of each other or if it will work, but over the next several hours, the delegates bond over food and culture.
music is played and singing, and the growing realization that they are stronger together than apart, and more importantly perhaps, sclc was taking their issues seriously. the founder of the highlander folk school, a training center for civil rights and labor activists going back to the 1930's, after the conference wrote dr. king, "i believe we caught a glimpse of the future and the making of a bottom-up coalition." king was assassinated three weeks after this conference. sparking urban disorders and in more than 100 cities across the country and sparking concerns that echoed what folks opposed to the campaign were saying. this is what is going to happen.
violence is going to break out in washington. we can't have that 10 blocks from the white house. the campaign should be canceled. conventional wisdom would say that, with dr. king's death, it would have make sense if it was canceled. just to explain who is here, -- corettacame, scott king, ralph abernathy in the middle, andrew young, a very young harry belafonte. organized theho march on washington in 1963. this is at the memorial march for dr. king. the conventional wisdom said the campaign should be cancelled who else can do this but dr. king and in the aftermath of the violence and the mourning that this prompted, we should not do this.
ralph abernathy, king's successor, said we will go on, and support for the campaign exploded. this is maybe one of those ironies, that those were critical of the campaign initially and said i will set this out, i don't agree with what they are doing, and it would not succeed, changed their mind. the black panthers who scoffed at nonviolent strategy has q uaint and outmoded. one of the panthers that i interviewed told me, i will go as a tribute to dr. king. the longtime leader of the naacp and a rival of king's for fundraising and media attention, who had said that the poor people's campaign would provoke violence and make it even harder to make any kind of progress in
civil rights in 1967 and 1968 when it came to the vietnam war and issues like that, he does not support the campaign, but he withdraws his opposition from the campaign. there are many other nameless people, black, white, and brown, who want to do something and are upset by his death and a poor people's campaign is a good way to channel their energy, whether through donations or volunteer work or going to washington, so you see an explosion of support for the campaign that sclc was not prepared to deal with. they were not known for organization. they often did things by the seat of their pants, and it
worked out well enough, but what they are trying to do as a major campaign bringing thousands of people to d.c., building the encampment on the national mall to house those people and run a small city all while trying to mourn the death of their friend and leader. it becomes obvious in early may how difficult this will be as the campaign moves forward. as it begins, and a series of caravans brings people across the country from the pacific northwest and the southwest, and the south, they are bringing folks across the country to washington to descend on congress and the administration to say you need to take poverty seriously. here is an example. this is probably the most famous caravan that brought people to d.c., the mule train. a classic symbol of southern
poverty, of black and white sharecropping in particular. a couple pieces of the culture. one of the rallies that happens later. what is interesting is while this becomes one of the most important symbols of the poor people's campaign, it is actually misleading because it reinforces the idea that the campaign was mostly worried about black poverty, southern poverty, and it erases the multiracial makeup you have of mexican-americans and puerto ricans and native americans and appalachian whites. all those participating in the campaign. this doesn't capture their poverty. another symbol of this was a resurrection city. i mentioned the encampment on
the washington mall. this is west potomac park now. it is mostly athletic fields, softball, soccer, but this is where they set up camp with wood a-frame tents to house up to 3,000 people, and this would be a launch pad for protests, demonstrations, and lobbying of congress and the white house. there had always been a plan to do this since the beginning, until america responds. until americaere responds. resurrection city takes on a life of its own in a lot of ways and becomes a symbol of the campaign that's both good and bad.
resurrection city had become home to almost 2,500 people at its peak in late may. described by one magazine as a revival meeting within a carnival within an army camp, resurrection city took on a unique personality through a rich diversity of people and a high level of creativity. residents identifed the grassy streets between tents with names such as love lane and abernathy avenue. holmes became the great society and the cleveland rat patrol. doctors with the medical community on human rights made calls. marshall's tried to keep the peace. children played in the day care center while men played checkers. if residents did not meet during periodic demonstrations or meeting with a member of congress, they saw each other in line for food or chemical toilets. a newspaper began to publish and
the seemingly every night, the entertainment was the finest in town. with top-flight entertainers, waters,ddy resurrection city became a renowned concert venue. it even had its own zip code. in part to allow for receipt of government benefits. resurrection city also witnessed efforts to foster a sharing of cultural differences and styles. the soul center located in a small so-called white section -- yes it was somewhat segregated -- fostered exchange among the campaign's participants, especially through music and dance. coordinated by the highlander folk school, the smithsonian and the sclc cultural commission, they organized cultural activities. while organizers sponsored some well-known artists, of particular interest was fighting
-- finding artists among the residents. when the rain started, a shelter was built above the fire where coffee was always bubbling. long had encouraged cultural throughnding through music and art become a came way through a formal discussion arguing and singing and coffee drinking and for the informal sing-alongs singing freedom songs and reforming traditional balance and had a daily symphony of sorts. reagan who helped found the soul recalled this evening as
one of the earliest moments go back i saw musicians relating over new material ecology and the relationship to they were and somebody else. one of the folks i did an oral history with, i did about 40 of them, talked about how it rained like in the bible. 19 of 31 days at the peak of the poor people's campaign late may and early june and you can see right here that the mud that it would leave behind, and it became a remarkable mess to make this city work. you can see the better days with
barbers cutting hair, but it rained so hard resurrection city had to be evacuated twice and the mess hall collapsed and there were concerns about flu epidemics of disease. that never happened human rights were on top of that to make sure folks were not spending too much time in standing water. coretta scott king was carried through the flooding rather than walk through mud. they arrive about two weeks
later in late may, resurrection city is not an attractive place to live. what is the great understatement from the book, "we did not see what we hope to see for understandable reasons. martin luther king was assassinated. if they do not have their craft have two get on and wish them the best of luck. so most chicanos when they get to washington, they go to the hawthorne school. it is an experimental high school a couple of miles from resurrection city. and the choice of the hawthorne school was critical. the chance to live there. not only was it warm and dry and a good basis of action, that in -- but in this space, much of
the campaign for the campaign'se -- constructive relationship building takes place. especially for chicanos, to the point that many people independently refer to it as a successful multiethnic community at the belt. here is a glimpse of the hawthorne school. so the initial rain stopped. considerable multiracial cooperation began to bloom within the confines of the hawthorne school. sometimes this took the form of wasltural exchange, such as witnessed in a common area. a white man "starts to play a kick ass boogie-woogie on the piano, then they were kicking up their heels and the mexican-americans would sit around tapping their toes." there was the interesting cross pollination.
"we had a blast, but it also took some adjustment. it took some adjustment to act with very -- interact with very poor whites. i had never seen poor whites before, and i mean dirt poor. some barely had shoes." and rudy was not alone. nearly all chicano activists echoed this sentiment. they were not more impoverished than the contingent from appalachia. mexican-americans were shocked. "i thought i was poor until i got there and saw some of these people," said a man from santa fe, who had grown up without indoor plumbing or a regular diet of meat. the initial response of some mexican-americans there were to gather the extra shoes and jackets they had brought for the trip and gave it to the white counterparts. some produced a more sophisticated way to view poverty.
they knew vaguely about the rich, organizing tradition of young, poor, appalachian whites. but it gave younger activists something to think about. it was the first time puerto ricans had had contact with non-appalachian whites. not even more than 100 miles to come in contact with these people in different cultures and subcultures with education. for months, it helped to crystallize some concepts in his head. i went from a nationalist to internationalist perspective. i saw the struggle here at home. my rhetoric changed. and rather than vilifying white man, he began to criticize the capitalist structure and its most prominent defenders, rich white men. that change proved invaluable as the ship on a movement in the 1970's and as a labor organizer later on. this is one of the big takeaways that participants in the poor people's campaign had. the opportunity to interact with
folks that they really did not have a chance to normally, right? such as the appalachian whites. they met people who got them thinking in more sophisticated ways. and i think it is important to wentthat a lot of us who to washington for the poor people's campaign were relatively young. teenagers, in their 20's or 30's. so there were older folks there as well, but the majority of people who went to washington and stayed there for an extended period of time were younger. -- they hady were more time, they have not really been able to form these kinds of thinking through life yet. but what is even more important is the relationship between chicano activists. they said that one of the great takeaways for them is they got to meet people, from other chicano activists from the southwest. social activists saying when
would i have gotten together crusade,e in the broken bread with them, lived with them, and marched every day with them? this is an opportunity to meet gonzalez, the guys from new mexico and chicago, and it may be much more willing to be involved and participate in the chicano movement elsewhere. gonzalez calls for people to come from all over the country to denver, and they work more -- they were much more willing to go because they knew him, they knew what he was like, they knew him personally. these kind of interactions became so important, and i think is one of the great legacies of the poor people's campaign that is completely lost by typical media accounts and even by scholarly accounts. so one of the infamous protests that occurred was outside the supreme court. i mentioned fishing rights earlier. now, this is an issue of great
importance to american indians, and this idea that they should have the ability to fish in ancestral waters despite what state law said, because they had treaties with the national government to protect that. the supreme court ruled against them, saying they cannot fish in ancestral waters beyond what the law says. right? so there is a protest of some 400 black, chicano, and american indians who demonstrate outside the supreme court. they do not change their mind, of course, but it is an important bonding moment. what is even more important that many people said was the walk back when they were attacked by the d.c. police. many people say, when you are beaten together and sitting in jail together, you find a common cause. you know, you really find a common cause when you're sitting in a jail cell together. so solidarity day was a
climactic moment in some sense, at least for the media. it looks a little bit like the march on washington five years earlier, and was compared to the march on washington, as well. usually not in a positive way. there was talk about the negative tone of solidarity day, and an angrier tone. but this is 1968, not 1963 and i think that is to be expected. people, the media talked about ralph abernathy's lumbering and terrible speech. it was not the "i have a dream" speech, it was smaller but there were all of these comparisons to the march on washington that were relatively unfair. to me, solidarity day is important, but not one of the most important legacies or moments of the campaign. again, it was really about the
interactions people had with each other in monday and moments ndane moments that i think are illustrative. after solidarity day, you had to have a park permit and the department of interior to have this encampment on the washington mall, that ended, and five days later, the government chose not to renew it. the police came in and even evacuated those in resurrection city and flattened the place. this is important, because it affects what historical documents are left about the poor people's campaign. most of the documents were destroyed from the campaign on ward because they were here. so it took me several years going to 20 archives and doing dozens of oral histories and
spending a lot of time with underground magazines and newspapers to piece together this story, to figure out the campaign on the ground. because i could not just go to one archive and have a cache full of documents that i could just start digging through like a lot of historians are able to do. so many people stuck around in the capital. many people went home emboldened by their experience there. as i said, the chicano movement activists and the american activists felt emboldened. even if the campaign had not accomplished everything they had hoped to achieve. even behind the scenes, there were some policy objectives met. and i think a lot of times the media focused on resurrection city and the meal train and the policy goals they had that there was not an immediate withdrawal
from vietnam. there was not a rededication to the war on poverty, the johnson administration was lame-duck by this time. so many folks said well, the campaign was a failure because of this. but as i said, there were some policy achievements made by wright, probably better known as marian wright all, the -- marian wright edelman, the founder of the children's defense fund. she was a key behind-the-scenes actor for the campaign, who was able to get the ear of many bureaucrats when it came to surplus food, hunger issues and things like that. and welfare rights activists who were looking for a more humane welfare system, arguing that every american should have a guaranteed income if they fall below a certain level, certain standard of living. actually, they had a seat at the table and had a seat at the
table during the nixon administration, at least for the first couple of years, which is hard to believe. especially with what we think about dick nixon now. but welfare rights activists at least have some voice in 1969 and 1970, and a lot of it was due to the work that they did during the poor people's campaign. i would not argue it was a success, but it was also not the little bighorn either. so the campaign overall takes up about half of this book. and the rest of the book is a great contextualization for any poverty activists, and particularly among african-americans and mexican-americans more generally. i spent some time looking at the civil rights coalition that supported cesar chavez and the farmworkers and the great boycott they had across the country, particularly in chicago. i looked at efforts to reach out to black power adherence not
just around land rights the but around community control, community institutions as many black power activists were talking about. and they also write about the rainbow coalition of black panther fred hampton in chicago. this is well before jesse jackson uses the term in the 1980's, fred hampton used it first. so why does it matter? you know? , i'm always asked. i was asked by my advisor, and my students now. why does the activism around any poverty matter at this time, why does the poor people's campaign matter? it seems really remote now in some ways, given the political culture we live in today, as we sit on the edge of the guillotine of sequester. the night before, literally. but i argue there are lessons we can learn by looking at this type of activism.
number one, the expectations we have about coalition. coalition can be productive even if it is fleeting. it doesn't have to be a sustained coalition that continues from now until eternity. that when folks come together and get something done, that doesn't necessarily mean they have to always be together or is even natural to always be together, right? that these kinds of coalitions are natural and the recognition that people defined their poverty and justice differently should be recognized. folks have a different historical trajectory and history that should be honored and respected. i also think the relationship between race and class is important, and that it is not mutually exclusive or always at odds with each other, but that it can be mutually reinforcing. you can have a strong racial identity and also be part of a coalition, and work along class lines at times.
the poor people's campaign represents that at some level. and lastly, the nature of the civil rights movement and the black freedom struggle more generally. is it, as we would -- if we focus on the "i have a dream" speech in 1963, is it only about this message of brotherhood and equality, where we all should just work together in this very positive way, right? or was the freedom struggle about hard demands about full citizenship that went well beyond voting rights and the desegregation of lunch counters, but included economic justice? i think that part of the civil rights movement has been lost. even the term civil rights might slip into that language as well. citizenship defines in a narrow way. citizenship is freedom in the broader way. the poor people's campaign says
a lot to these different themes. we can talk about -- obviously, this is an occupy picture. q&a.n talk about it in a i wanted to end this with one last very short excerpt that thinks about coalition. and the complexity of it. 1981,ng of feminists in civil rights campaign activists captured theon spirit. "coalition work is not done in your home, coalition has to be done in the streets and is some of the most dangerous work you can do." her statement still holds true today. thank you so much. [applause] i think we have -- what time is it?
oh man, i went much longer than i meant. i'm sorry. we have time for a q&a for a little while here. comments, questions? >> i have a question. with occupy, people just came, but i'm wondering with the city, you said there were 2500 people at its peak. did those people just come, or where they somewhat hand selected? we want some people from this contingency, some from this? how did that work out? >> they were not hand selected per se, the initial concept was bring 3000 people to washington, train them in nonviolence, and it was very deliberate in these different places. initially, the concept had been, we will not hand select people but limit the number of people that come because that way we can control it. and then as i said, after everybody wanted to come to
d.c. because of this is a tribute to dr. king and they wanted to do something, they sort of get flooded in a lot of ways with people going to resurrection city, living there, trying to help in different ways, to the point where sclc lost control at some level. they did have some partners but sclc was the main organization. so a lot of people just came, especially for solidarity day. but throughout, you had thousands of people part of the campaign at different times. i think it is important to note that some people came for a day or two, maybe for a weekend or a week. some people stayed for the duration of resurrection city or the whole campaign, the duration of which was from may through mid-to-late july. but they stayed in other places in d.c. i think the comparisons to occupy, would you did not ask,
many people say this looks like occupy. but it is different in a lot of ways because it is not clear what occupy wanted. there was not a clear statement of goals in the same way of the poor people's campaign. there was a 53 page document of goals that the campaign and sclc had laid out with cooperation of the other folks who were a part of it. and for me, i did not know what occupy was seeking other than a challenge to the very elite. but oftentimes, that challenge was to the private sector as much as the public sector. but the campaign, they made very explicit claims on the state. get out of vietnam. start spending a lot more money on ending poverty, poverty funding, fund this war we declared four years ago. not the war in southeast asia,
which we never declared, but this war. so there was certainly some spontaneity around participation in the campaign, but there were attempts to try to control it. and the folks coming from the southwest, sclc spent all this money bussing them across the country, and they would pay for plane tickets home. you know, so there was only so much of that they could do, even with the massive donations they got after dr. king's death. great question. >> what happened to the to your eno movement? the goals? >> they still exist. there are still lawsuits over land grants to this day. so it starts in the 19th century. he has a vision, he grows up in sort of a pentecostal tradition
and said he had visions, said that god told him to help the poor, this is the issue and this is the movement he needed to pursue. and so he ends up -- he goes to -- forr some of his property damage. one of the tactics they used was to sit in on national forest, there was a lot of federal land in northern new mexico, they burned some signs. they not really -- the park rangers said they threatened them, they said they just -- it is up to interpretation. the bottom line, he had a lot of federal and state charges against him and eventually went to jail. when he came out, he was talking about getting the king of spain to ok his movement.
he sort of gets -- he was a little kooky in some ways. really important issue and a really important movement that he brings a lot of energy to and attention to, but he is more of a preacher, no offense. [laughter] he is more a preacher than an organizer. so the movement sort of passes him by, and so it goes back to more litigation and lawsuits than the kind of direct action that he champions in the 1960's. that is a great question. he is a really fascinating figure. >> you mentioned marian wright. what was the role of women, because the women's movement was really just nascent? it was. >> good question. what the poor people's campaign does in a lot of ways is it expands the space for women who did not necessarily see the national organization for women,
was more middle-class, not entirely, but more middle-class, mostly white, with particular goals about the opportunity, about glass ceilings for women in professional life in particular, as well as reproductive rights and some other issues, but some women didn't see the agenda as being particularly responsive or addressing their issues. so you have people like maria a. of mexican descent who eno'se ends up joining tior movement and ends up becoming a really involved activists around pushing chicano men that women and their issues are important in this movement, it is not just about masculinity, and working with land-grant rights issues and cooperatives in new mexico.
peggy terry is one of my favorite individuals. she is an appalachian migrant who originally came from a klan family initially who migrates to uptown chicago, on the north side of chicago, and becomes a welfare rights activist. she goes to washington and is becoming a spokesperson for poor whites there, who is able to bring black, white, and chicano welfare rights activists together. she ends up getting so much credibility through the campaign, she is tapped as the vice presidential candidate for the peace and freedom party, a very small third-party in 1968 that does not win a lot of votes, but she is the vice president nominee. i can't remember how many dates now -- states now, maybe 10 states. it was an opportunity for women to flex their muscle in some
sense in issues and directions that now did not really allow gave voice really to. that is a great question. and of course the welfare rights activists as well, the whole that nownot something is particularly comfortable with. the idea of a more humane welfare system, but also the idea of a national income, a guaranteed income for everybody. it was an idea that even the nixon administration played with. not for the same reason the left was interested, the nixon administration saw a guaranteed annual income as a great way to get rid of the rest of the welfare state. they said, we will cut a check to whoever falls below a certain level, but then we will illuminate food stamps, public housing, everything else -- eliminate food stamps, public housing, everything else. it was a weird moment where the left and right sort of agreed on a one concept, at least in the
abstract, but it didn't -- it never came to fruition. other questions? yes. >> what you see these movements going today? because the problems are still here. they are less or different, but they are still here. >> they are. that's a good question. as i said, in reference to the occupy movement, i see a lot of people seem to think that congress is not even worth trying to address. right? there were so many claims on the private sector to intervene, it starts in wall street, the challenge to wall street. so to me, it was striking that occupy doesn't start in washington but it starts in new york. i also think there's a lot of organizing on the ground, and durham is a really good example. the organizations tom campbell that tomant --
campbell mentioned that i have been involved with, they are good examples. when durham gets together, it is the most diverse room in town, black-and-white people getting together in this city to make a difference. but it is often toward small policy changes that make a difference in people's lives, but certainly is not addressing the great inequality we have a -- in the country that just seems to be getting worse. i would never say -- there is a risk of becoming nostalgic about the 1960's, and i try to not do that because there is great progress we have made in many ways in the 21st century and in the last 50 years. but as you said, the problems persist, and there are people trying to make a difference. but there is no one i see who has the kind of national stature that king had or caesar chavez had leading these kinds of movements. and i don't even know if that is the answer.
one question is, and i don't like to play counterfactuals, but if dr. king had lived, what would've happened to the poor people's campaign? it probably would not have been any more successful than if he had died. i think that is the sad truth. what they were trying to do was so difficult. and this was a democratic majority congress and democratic administration -- of course, the democratic carter -- democratic party was a different party back then, a lot of white supremacists from the south. but similar conditions, major budget cutting, the cleveland rat patrol, if you remember that comment? that was a reference to congress refusing to give money to rat extermination in the major cities. there was a specific program -- this was such a bad problem and such a public health issue in detroit, boston, new york, and
a budget cutting congress led by southern democrats were like nope, we are not going to do that. we need to keep on putting money into south vietnam. so not a great answer. [laughter] but it is where we are right now. yes? , i know thatering the campaign started with the sclc and it was king's idea, but when it happened, would it be fair to say by the time it actually happened out of all the group that were involved, possibly the chicano movement had the most to gain? the reason why i ask -- you can swap this down if it is totally off base on one hand, one can say nationally, there was a lack of awareness of chicano poverty, but it seemed like a is even bigger, -- the issue was even bigger. on the east coast, there was
such an ignorance about the issues of chicano americans, and i am thinking about other reactions to king's death. in atlanta, the first idea that preceded the king the exam was the institute for the black was the museum institute for the black world. and durham, it was a black and white coalition, the duke vigil. i do not know much about chicano activism on the east coast or in d.c. there a biging, was upshot for the chicano movement, even though the poor people's campaign per se was not successful. awarenessot to raise for the movement? argumentsd one of the in the book is that it was a building block for the chicano movement. it was important for this very reason. the chicano movement is rather nascent, it is certainly not well known in the halls of power in washington and new york and on the east coast, in much of the media.
than this,rickier because it does raise the s at somef chicano level among activists and in washington specifically. the washington post is one of the few national newspapers that nativethe american, mexican american population at all. if you looked at the boston globe, you would not know they were there. while it does raise the profile for them and connects them with each other and traditional civil rights circles, puerto rican activists, there were not many the east.tivists in they are concentrated in the southwest. california, some in seattle, a contingent in chicago and harvestingbecause of migration.
but there are mostly puerto ricans in new york, philadelphia, and cleveland, so it was the opportunity to hook up with folks that now we think of as latino, but that was not a term that was used then. spanish-speaking, right, these constructions we use today? there is no question it raises their profile, but only to a certain extent. the attention they wanted to get from the national media was not there, because the national media was too concerned about resurrection city, the meal symbols thatese folks who have been covering the civil rights movement for years were more comfortable with. saying oh, i don't know what is going on with these other folks. i find one of the funny but sad moments, i guess, of the supreme protest a highlight.
there is a man -- let's flip backwards to that -- there he is . see the guy with the glasses on the left? his name was hank adams. activist.n indian the washington post labeled him as a white activist interested in indian rights. they did not even know how to identify these folks if they were not black or white. this binary was so persistent in how we understood race in this country. if you go out west, it is different. california and the bay area, there is a much more nuanced understanding. there is an asian american community, here is the chicano , the african-american community. there is more knowledge of it. in the east, where you have federal officials dictating
policy, where you have the national media organizations dictating what people are reading, the ivy leagues dictating what students, what historians were working on. it is taking a generation for us to even pay attention to these multiracial types of relationships rather than look at it in a biracial way. >> just a comment. it seems to me that it was a blueprint and that it did put out the fact that civil rights thing soltifaceted that it at least got to the point where if you were talking about civil rights, you knew you needed to add the rest of the book. it got that notion out there, and i do not think anything else could have done that. >> no, you are right. >> and there are other moments where are these efforts were there are black, brown, and multiracial efforts, but the pro-people's -- the poor people
campaign -- poor people's campaign was one of the most high profile campaigns. the reason king was trying to do this is an interesting legacy of his life that we have forgotten, generally. that is a great comments. questions or comments? ok. thank you so much for coming. i appreciate it. [applause] >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook at c-span history. justice anthony kennedy's retirement brings a significant change to the supreme court. follow the story on c-span, from president trump nominating a
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