The Souls of Poor Folk: Auditing America 50 Years After the Poor People’s Campaign Challenged Systemic Racism, Poverty, the War Economy/Militarism, Ecological Devastation and Our National Morality

On December 4, 1967, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. announced plans for a Poor People’s Campaign to organize towards transformative actions to end poverty, racism, and militarism in America. At that time, the nation was deeply divided, particularly by the issues of racial justice and the Vietnam War.

And yet even after Dr. King’s assassination in April 1968, this multi-racial mobilization of the poor went forward, mobilizing caravans that converged in Washington, D.C. to erect a shanty town on the National Mall that came to be known as “Resurrection City.”

The Poor People’s Campaign culminated in a Solidarity Day Rally for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom involving more than 50,000 people on June 19, 1968. Over the past 50 years, social movements have continued the struggle against poverty and the interrelated issues of the war economy and militarism, racism, and ecological devastation. They have won some gains, but even the handful of select indicators in this report make clear that we are still living in a system that serves a tiny minority at the expense of the rest of us.

And while the poor, women, and people of color are hardest hit, these problems afflict our entire nation. Most poor and low-income Americans are white, and our middle class is rapidly shrinking as more and more of our country’s abundant wealth flows to the top 1%. It is in all of our interest to recapture what Dr. King called the “revolutionary spirit” needed to solve these systemic problems.