MLK's last campaign: The Poor People's Campaign 19

  • 1968: MK and the SCLC faced major problems: they had lost LBJ's support, faced financial issues and internal rifts, riots began occuring showing that blacks no longer supported non-violence and hostility was created between moderates and Black Power activists
  • MLK planned the Poor People's Campaign 1968 which would include Mexicans, Native Americans and poor whites as well as blacks. He also expected trade unions and religious groups to provide organisations and funding. He learnt from Chicago that he needed a broader base of support
  • This would be a national campaign including civil disobedience, occupying government buildings, boycotting businesses and another March on Washington (didn't take place until after MLK's death). It was more radical then any other campaign MLK had previously been a part of and reflected his growing distrust of federal politicians like LBJ and his desire to retain the support of as many black radicals as possible
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LBJ's reaction to the demands

Fulfilment of the demands would relieve poverty and end ghettos, but LBJ was unsympathetic. The Vietnam War divided LBJ and MLK and diverted much needed resoures from LBJ's "great Society" anti-poverty programme 

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The Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike 1968

  • City authorities in Memphis, Tennessee refused to recognise the trade union of its poorly paid sanitation workers, most of whom were black
  • The workers then went on strike to demand union recognition, better pay and an end to racial discrimination
  • They were willing to remain non-violent, attracting MLK. The dispute however distracted MLK from his Poor People's Campaign and it was in Memphis that he was then assassinated in April 1968
  • First march in support of the strikers: DISASTER. Some marchers smashed windows of local shops and looted the contents. MLK immediately stopped the march but was still accused of leading a violent march and then running away
  • A second NON-VIOLENT march was planned, but MLK was assassinated before this could take place
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MLK's assassination in April 1968

  • Symbolised the end of the non-violent civil rights movement as t had operated during 1955-68
  • LBJ called for a national day of mourning and the authorities in Memphis gave in to the sanitation workers demands
  • It also provoked riots in 130 cities, it took 70,000 troops to quell the burning and looting, which MLK would ironically ot have approved of
  • Black radicals claimed that the assassination showed non-violence did not work and the only way blacks could survive is if they had a gun
  • LBJ toook the opportunity to push through Congress the Civil Rights or Open Housing Act 1968 which forbade discrimination in the rental or sale of housing on the basis of race, colour, religion or national origins - though it also included penalties for ormenting unrest
  • In 1983, the third Monday in January was made the Martin Luther Kig National Holiday
    (King Day)
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