Solidarity Now

SoliDARITY NOW!

1968 Poor People's Campaign

Exhibiting May 14 – July 31, 2022

Included with Museum Admission

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the exhibition is supported by the CVS Health Foundation.

A new traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian illuminates the often-overlooked history of the multicultural movement that confronted poverty and redefined social justice and activism in America. Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People’s Campaign will begin a national tour at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel, a Smithsonian Affiliate. The final crusade of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, the Poor People’s Campaign was launched in his honor at a memorial service led by Coretta Scott King and Ralph Abernathy at the Lorraine Motel May 2, 1968.

In the 1960s, as the United States emerged as a global model of wealth and democracy, an estimated 25 million Americans lived in poverty. From the elderly and underemployed to children and persons with disabilities, poverty affected people of every race, age and religion. In response, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by King and Abernathy, organized the Poor People’s Campaign as a national human rights crusade.

Solidarity Now! features photographs, oral histories with campaign participants and organizers, and an array of protest signs, political buttons, and audio field recordings collected during the campaign. The exhibition explores the significance of the tactics and impact of this campaign that drew thousands of people to build a protest community on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For nearly six weeks they inhabited “a city of hope” on 15 acres between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial to call the nation’s attention to the crippling effects of poverty for millions of Americans. The protest site was called Resurrection City.

Through a 3D map of Resurrection City, visitors can examine the planned spaces for housing, a cultural center, city hall, theater stage, and essential services, including facilities for food and dining, sanitation, communications, education, medical and dental care, and childcare.

As a multiethnic movement that included African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Asians, and poor Whites from Appalachia and rural communities, the six-week protest community in Washington attracted demonstrators nationwide. The campaign leaders presented demands to Congress, including demands for jobs, living wages and access to land, capital and health care. It was the first large-scale, nationally organized demonstration after King’s death.

 

Underground Railroad Exhibit Photos

Mule Train from Mississippi headed to Washington, DC. The Southern Caravan from Marks, Mississippi, like this one, included mules and wagons to symbolize the injustices of tenant farming, sharecropping, and the plantation economy. Diana Davies Photograph Collection, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution

 

Underground Railroad Exhibit Photos

Organizers chose the 16-acre site between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument to construct Resurrection City including plywood tents for housing and community space shelters for dining, childcare, healthcare, performances, and town meetings. From the Collection, Gift of Robert and Greta Houston © Robert Houston. Collection from the National Museum of African American History and Culture

 

Underground Railroad Exhibit Photos

Women and family issues were central among the concerns of the Poor People's Campaign. Women not only helped shape the antipoverty movement’s goals, but they also created new models for social movement leadership. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

 

Underground Railroad Exhibit Photos

The six men pictured here in 1968 were advocating for more and better housing. They were living in an America that had become starkly divided.  Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

 

Underground Railroad Exhibit Photos

A Minister's March in 1968 in Washington, DC with SCLC's Ralph Abernathy (center with papers) among the ecumenical leadership. Poverty affected people across America of every race, age, and religion. Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Laura Jones, © Laura Jones

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