In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. formally announced the Poor People’s Campaign — the most ambitious crusade the Southern Christian Leadership Conference ever undertook. Fifty years later, communities around the country are commemorating his multiracial vision during that remarkable and tumultuous time, as well as launching a new Poor People’s Campaign under the leadership of the Reverend William Barber of North Carolina. Join historian and professor Gordon Mantler at a series of events in Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Texas, and elsewhere, where he will discuss the campaign and how it fit into a larger process of black-brown coalition-building in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Check out this site’s calendar for upcoming events recognizing the 50th anniversary of the campaign and the efforts of thousands of people to demand a genuine federal War on Poverty.
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The Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 has long been overshadowed by the assassination of its architect, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the political turmoil of that year. In a major reinterpretation of civil rights and Chicano movement history, Gordon K. Mantler demonstrates how King’s unfinished crusade became the era’s most high-profile attempt at multiracial collaboration and sheds light on the interdependent relationship between racial identity and political coalition among African Americans and Mexican Americans. Mantler argues that while the fight against poverty held great potential for black-brown cooperation, such efforts also exposed the complex dynamics between the nation’s two largest minority groups.
Drawing on oral histories, archives, periodicals, and FBI surveillance files, Mantler paints a rich portrait of the campaign and the larger anti-poverty work from which it emerged, including the labor activism of Cesar Chavez, opposition of Black and Chicano Power to state violence in Chicago and Denver, and advocacy for Mexican American land-grant rights in New Mexico. Ultimately, Mantler challenges readers to rethink the multiracial history of the long civil rights movement and the difficulty of sustaining political coalitions.
Archived book events and interviews
Mantler has discussed the book and current events in a variety of forums, including public radio, CSPAN, the Library of Congress, the New School’s Public Seminar website, the (Raleigh) News & Observer, Chicago Tribune, and El Beisman and “Live from the Heartland,” both in Chicago.