POOR PEOPLE'S MARCH Initially conceived by Martin Luther King before his assassination, the Poor People's March on Washington in 1968 was led by King's successor, Rev. Ralph D. Abernathy and, among others, his widow, Coretta. Designed to wrench the national conscience and prod Congress into granting more aid to the approximately thirty million American poor, the March began in early May with eight separate caravans of marchers and muletrains from as far off as Seattle, Boston and Edwards, Mississippi. Upon arrival in Washington, the marchers were housed in a wood shantytown (dubbed "Resurrection City") especially built for the occasion near the Washington Monument. Presiding at the christening of "Resurrection City," Rev. Abernathy declared that "this march will not last for a day or two days or even a week. We will be here until the Congress and the Government decide they are going to do something about the plight of poor people by doing away with poverty, unemployment and underemployment."
From the beginning, however, the Poor People's campaign and, especially, "Resurrection City," was plagued by bad weather, internal crises, and inadequate cooking, bathing and sanitation facilities. The campaign itself was climaxed on June 19 with what was called "Solidarity Day." A crowd of 55,000 whites and blacks marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial to listen to nearly five hours of songs, speeches and prayers, somewhat reminiscent of the much larger 1963 March on Washington which drew a throng of 200,000 demonstrators.
Although the Poor People's March did not succeed in eradicating poverty, some limited victories were achieved. The Department of Agriculture, for example, agreed to speed up food relief programs in nearly three hundred of the country's poorest counties. The Labor Department rushed through a plan to create 100,000 new jobs, while the Office of Economic Opportunity agreed to increase its budget by 25 million dollars for expanded programs in emergency food and health care.