The Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas looks at a 1968 campaign to end poverty - and why it still matters
Here are four facts about "Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People's Campaign," the new exhibition at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza.
At the height of the turbulent '60s, a massive movement to end poverty took root in the U.S.. Thousands of people descended on Washington, D.C. and took up residence for months, protesting on The Mall.
"Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People's Campaign" at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza is an exploration of the movement that brought this coalition of Americans together. The exhibition runs until February 26th.
Stephen Fagin, the museum's curator, believes that the message of the campaign is still as important now as it was over 50 years ago.
"By hosting this exhibit, we are helping people understand that poverty is real, poverty still exists, and it's all around us," Fagin said. "Any time that awareness can be amplified and spread, I think it's a very positive thing that leads to positive outcomes."
Here are four things to know about the Poor People's Campaign:
Martin Luther King Jr. planned the campaign before his assassination in April 1968.
Following Dr. King's death, Ralph Abernathy became president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and continued the effort to portray the seriousness of poverty in our nation's capital.
Poor people came to D.C. from all across the country to take part in the campaign, travelling by bus, car, or even mule cart.
The camp, called Resurrection City, was effectively a shanty town built on the Washington Mall.
As protestors flooded in, wooden tents were rapidly constructed.
The encampment stood for over six weeks, from May to late June of 1968. Resurrection City, parked in the heart of the American capitol, operated as an independent town, complete with its own businesses, health clinics, and general infrastructure.
Resurrection City was not a Utopia.
Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated during the campaign, casting a mournful mood on the protestors. And in the camp, heavy policing kept protestors from direct contact with legislators and politicians.
Regular rainfall left the camp incredibly muddy, making life at the campsite even more difficult. By late June, D.C. police cleared the camp, arresting those still there and ending the campaign.
Nevertheless, the Poor People's Campaign was profoundly impactful, showing interracial solidarity and united people around a singular cause: the eradication of poverty in the United States.
The effort is still inspiring - and relevant - today, said Fagin, the museum's curator.
"You had African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans all coming together, literally living side by side in this makeshift community that was very self-sufficient," said Fagin.
"Resurrection City had its own zip code, its own daycare center. It was a really extraordinary place for six weeks. And these people, after the campaign, they took these cultural lessons home."
Looking back on the effort is important to today, Fagin said.
"We're a very divided country right now. Appreciating and understanding one another and our uniqueness and our own culture, I think, can do nothing but bring us together."
"Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People's Campaign" is on view at the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza through Feb. 23.