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Democracy's CapitalBlack Political Power in Washington, D.C., 1960s-1970s$
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Lauren Pearlman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781469653907

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469653907.001.0001

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SCLC Goes to Washington

SCLC Goes to Washington

The 1968 Poor People’s Campaign

(p.97) 3 SCLC Goes to Washington
Democracy's Capital

Lauren Pearlman

University of North Carolina Press

Five years after the March on Washington and just one month after the April 1968 riots, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) returned to Washington, D.C., to stage the Poor People’s Campaign, a national antipoverty campaign planned while King was still alive but executed after his assassination. Chapter 3 examines how the Poor People’s Campaign unfolded in a city that operated with nascent black political power, federal oversight, and law-and-order measures that undermined grassroots activism. By ignoring the city’s radical voices, racial tensions, and local organizations in planning the Poor People’s Campaign, SCLC overlooked systemic injustices taking place just blocks beyond the monumental core. Quite the opposite, the campaign put a strain on local resources, sidetracked municipal government officials, increased tensions with the local police department, and provided fodder for a presidential candidate eager to make the city’s lawlessness a focal point of his campaign. Meanwhile, in the shadow of the Poor People’s Campaign, local activists battled the federal government over its War on Poverty efforts, revealing the ways Johnson’s Great Society undermined black self-determination.

Keywords:   Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), Poor People’s Campaign, Washington, D.C., War on Poverty, Great Society, Martin Luther King Jr

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