Fifty years ago, our nation’s capital was in flames. Outrage over the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. erupted in a wave of rioting that left neighborhoods across Washington so damaged they wouldn’t recover for decades.
Despite their grief, King’s allies continued to press forward with a major initiative he’d helped launch — a Poor People’s Campaign. Their goal: to build a multi-racial movement, led by poor people, to fight the poverty and racism that plagued the nation as well as the militarism that had led to a deadly war in Vietnam.
They organized caravans from across the country to converge in Washington in June 1968, where they erected a shanty town on the National Mall known as “Resurrection City.” Their efforts shamed Congress into improving some federal anti-poverty programs, but the campaign wasn’t able to sustain momentum in the midst of a national struggle to recover from King’s murder.