MLK Jr. and the Economic Bill of Rights


Over at The McLean Parlor I’ve got several links for folks to read on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Feel free to head on over there and check them out. One, by MSNBC’s Ned Resnikoff, highlights “Four ways Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to battle inequality” (Aviva Shen has a good piece as well). As Resnikoff writes, “in the last year of his life, King poured most of his energy into launching the Poor People’s Campaign, an organization dedicated to advocating for economic justice.” To my perception there seems to be a greater awareness for Dr. King’s opposition to the Vietnam War than for the Poor People’s Campaign — the latter effort resulted in the Poor People’s March and the establishment of “Resurrection City” in 1968.

Here is an excerpt from the Henry Louis Gates Jr. documentary The Two Nations of Black America on Dr. King’s focus on justice for the poor:

Later, in the summer of that year, activist Bayard Rustin published a rather specific Economic Bill of Rights in the New York Times:

The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, architects of the Poor People’s Campaign, have outlined 5 requirements of the bill of economic & social rights that will set poverty on the road to extinction:
1. A meaningful job at a living wage for every employable citizen.
2. A secure and adequate income for all who cannot find jobs or for whom employment is inappropriate.
3. Access to land as a means to income and livelihood.
4. Access to capital as a means of full participation in the economic life of America.
5. Recognition by law of the right of people affected by government programs to play a truly significant role in determining how they are designed and carried out.

As the radical left is wont to remind this is a part of the Dr. King’s legacy that is less remembered, even if most of these rights proposed in the late 60s made a more recent appearance in Rolling Stone. You can find news clips of the Poor People’s Campaign from the Civil Right Digital Library here, as well as over at PBS.


One response to “MLK Jr. and the Economic Bill of Rights

  1. Pingback: On M.L.K. Jr. and restructuring the “edifice which produces beggars…” | Punditocracy·

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