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A King’s Blueprint for Change

By Todd Belcore

From the moment of America’s birth on July 4, 1776, when 13 colonies proclaimed their independence amidst a war with Great Britain, what was clear was that one of America’s founding principles would be to ensure that her inhabitants would always have the right to protest and fight to right wrongs.1

Historically, whether the Civil War or Brown v. Board of Education, injustices have often been righted through war or through affirmative advocacy in the courts.2 Thankfully, from the moment of our nation’s independence to the present, the scores of men, women, and children who cried, bled, and died in the name of freedom and justice also left behind the rough blueprint necessary to right any injustice: affirmative advocacy that takes place in the streets.

At present there is no greater injustice than poverty. And the time for that wrong to be righted is now.

Why now? Because, despite the War on Poverty, despite the Poor People’s Campaign, and despite centuries of men and women having their hopes and dreams crushed by poverty, poverty persists.

Further, failing to address poverty now signals a willingness to not just accept—but to be so bold as to expect—generational poverty. Accepting generational poverty is incompatible with the values that influenced the founding documents and principles that gave birth to America: liberty, equality, morality, and opportunity. Simply put, poverty is un-American.

Therefore the question of poverty should not be a question of “can” poverty be addressed; it is a question of “will” it be addressed. It is a question of our will. Addressing poverty is not an economic question. It is not a political question either. It is a moral one. It is an American one.

Now we, as a society, have to decide whether the immortal words penned by our forefathers, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” are merely words on paper.3

Now we, as a society, have to decide whether the phrase that birthed a country is merely an ideal or constitutes the values and guiding principles that should illuminate every decision we make.

To the degree that there is any doubt how we should answer such bedrock questions, just consult history. Too many of our ancestors cried tears that were never wiped away, too many bled without anyone to care for them, too many sacrificed and died so that others would be able to taste the very liberty, equality, and opportunity promised by our forefathers on July 4, 1776, for us to do anything less than honor their legacy by making the words in that hallowed document become the reality for everyone in this nation. It is time to live our nation’s ideals and ensure that everyone has access to opportunity.

It is time for the injustice of poverty to be righted once and for all. And, thankfully, we have a King’s blueprint for change to show us how to accomplish exactly that.

Will We Honor Our History of Righting Wrongs?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s journey alongside millions of others in the fight for freedom and justice was rife with successes and failures etching out a pathway for change. That blueprint for righting injustice requires (1) recognizing the necessity to right the injustice, (2) committing to the effort in a way that inspires others to act, (3) messaging that helps broaden and mobilize coalitions, and (4) strategizing to maximize the benefit of media coverage. History has proven that each of these critical elements must be present to change and inspire enough hearts and minds to right the greatest wrongs. These elements were present, for example, in the civil rights movement, a major development in our history.

Each of the requirements of the blueprint for change is explored further in the sections that follow.

Recognition—Take a Step Back and See the Forest
Every day we are inundated with images of war, shootings, homelessness, and visuals of abject poverty. Many of us, advocates and otherwise, may have grown desensitized to injustice and do not feel that poverty is “bad enough” for us to devote the time necessary to truly fight to eliminate it.

Or we are so busy fighting against every injustice that we see that we have neither the energy nor the resources to create the changes needed.

In either instance, we should take a step back and question what we have come to accept. Dr. King did precisely that one day when he addressed his inner circle and simply asked, “Why do [we] have 40 million people in our society who are poor?”4

Dr. King went on to describe masterfully some of the rawest, deepest injustices that stripped millions of men, women, and children across the country of their inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The Forest of Poverty in the 1960s. These are the facts: (1) The sheer number of people living in poverty was estimated at 30 million.5 (2) The adult unemployment rate shifted dramatically from being roughly the same across races in the late 1930s and early 1940s to African Americans being more than twice as likely to be unemployed.6 (3) African American youths composed 30 percent to 40 percent of unemployed youths.7 (4) The skills and wage gap was causing “more than half of the poverty-stricken people in our country” to work every day “but ear[n] so little that they cannot function meaningfully in society, and cannot purchase the basic necessities of life.”8 (5) Schools were seen as “more inadequate and more segr[eg]ated today than they were thirty years ago in the North.”9 (6) Housing issues included “more slums in our country today than there were 25 years ago” and “more than 40 percent” of the African American families in the United States living in “what can be classified as sub-standard housing conditions.”10

Poverty Indicators that Should Compel People to Act Now. Bleak as the picture looked nearly 50 years ago, even more men, women, and children are being stripped of their inalienable rights in the present: (1) The number of people living in poverty has actually increased to 46.5 million.11 (2) The adult unemployment rate is 167 percent higher than it was when Dr. King gave his remarks.12 (3) African American adults are still roughly twice as likely to be unemployed as their Caucasian counterparts while African American youths are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than Caucasian youths.13 (4) The skills and wage gap referenced in 1966 has arguably increased as studies clearly show that a “high school diploma is no longer enough” to get a job and earn enough to take care of yourself and your family.14 In fact, “the employment rate of non-Hispanic white and African Americans males who graduated high school fell from 96 percent in 1970 to just 75 percent in 2011. Earnings for these groups dropped by more than 50 percent during the same period.”15 (5) Studies show that public schools are more segregated now than they were in Dr. King’s era.16 (6) While more people are living in decent housing now than 50 years ago, over seven million men and women find themselves in need of accessing affordable housing without any chance of ever accessing any.17

Outlining the breadth and depth of poverty over the last 50 years helps illustrate how appalling and unacceptable poverty is. Recognition alone is not enough, however. Having the bravery necessary to act is critical as well.

Commitment—What Are You Going to Do About It?
Dr. King said:

There’s nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it… why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table, when man has the resources and scientific know-how to provide all mankind with the basic necessities of life?... There is no deficit in human resources; the deficit is in human will.18

In other words, we see the problem (poverty), and we see possible solutions (resources), so what? What are we going to do about it? And how much are we willing to sacrifice to right that wrong?

We can only overcome the “deficit in human will” with data, statistics, news reports and such; and we cannot inspire enough people to create change by just talking about injustice. Movements reliant on talk, social-media outlets, or otherwise often do not demonstrate the deep commitment to doing what is necessary to confront the injustice. As a result, not enough people are inspired to act, and the movement sputters. Significantly the type of action taken is also critical in determining the success of the effort.

King’s journey alongside millions of others in the fight for freedom and justice was rife with successes and failures etching out a pathway for change.

Courts Change Laws, Not Hearts. Courts are usually, and rightly, the first place that people consider when they seek to right wrongs—and even to build movements. Dr. King recognized that legal victories were and are important, and often necessary, to ensure that people’s rights were and are established and protected. For example, Dr. King classified Brown v. Board of Education as a critical legal turning point in the civil rights movement; Brown buoyed spirits and further galvanized the movement.19

However, affirmative advocacy in the courts is not a panacea. Given the current legal landscape, relying on the courts to create change with regard to poverty is insufficient for two reasons.

First, the legal landscape does not provide a clear legal hook to address poverty. With few exceptions, both Washington v. Davis and Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated v. Dukes make significantly more challenging bringing lawsuits on behalf of a group defined by something immutable such as race or gender.20 Further, the notion of relying on the courts to protect the rights of people of low-income as a group is even more difficult. Case law is not quite as clear as it relates to people of low-income, but that those of low income, as a group, do not merit any special protection from the court is widely understood and even taught.21

Second, even if a challenge in the court is successful, relying on the courts exclusively is still insufficient. Few people understood that better than Dr. King. Although he considered Brown v. Board of Education the legal turning point in the civil rights movement, he explained: “A court can only declare rights. It does not necessarily deliver them. And only when people themselves begin to act are [they] able to transform a law which is on paper into thick action.”22

So, while legal victories are important, we need more to ensure that the court’s edict is given life.

You Need More than a War Led by a Decorated General. Often times the decree by the court is great, but true victory is in the codification of the court’s holding on a broader scale. That was true with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but, in the case of poverty, history has proven that legislation alone is insufficient to eliminate it. Just as with the courts, popular support is necessary for legislation to be given life.

In the early 1960s, poverty was so unconscionable that on January 8, 1964, Pres. Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a “War on Poverty” in his State of the Union Address.23 And, as in any war, the president needed a decorated general to craft a battle plan and dutifully execute it. Enter Sargent Shriver. Already known for founding the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver was tasked with masterminding the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, a plan to, as President Johnson put it, “eliminate the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty.”24 At its core, Shriver’s plan sought to deal head-on with many of the issues Dr. King observed by expanding educational and job opportunities; increasing the safety net for the poor and unemployed; providing jobs and training, “especially for those young people now growing up in poverty, and increasingly condemned by lack of economic opportunity to repeat the cycle over again”; and giving local communities the resources and infrastructure necessary for them to meet their local needs as they deem best.25

Shriver was winning this war; the poverty rate and number of people in poverty decreased 33 percent in five years.26 However, as the political will faded after Richard Nixon’s election, so did the funding for many of the War on Poverty’s antipoverty programs. Despite the wide-ranging gains from the War on Poverty as it relates to safety nets, access to jobs and education has since been stifled by the incredible disinvestment in projects such as Head Start and Job Corps and by employers moving millions of jobs overseas.

That historic example, the War on Poverty, demonstrates why even the recognition and commitment of individuals as important as the president and public figures such as Sargent Shriver are not enough to eradicate poverty on their own. In order to overcome the “deficit in human will” that Dr. King spoke of, we need more than individuals, no matter how important; we also need to be able to inspire the masses to care and act to resolve poverty.

Actions—whether sit-ins, boycotts, or other direct actions—have historically been effective only when properly targeted and when they have sufficient, sustained support.

The Bravery of Ordinary People Is Infectious. In order for legislation or a court’s decree to live and stand the test of time, there must be sufficient public will to enforce and fund it. That requires more than just legal and legislative turning points; it requires what Dr. King referred to as psychological turning points as well.27 Psychological turning points are the points “where the people themselves became involved in shaping their own destinies. This was a point in which the Negro recognized that if freedom was to be real, it had to be not only something from the top down, but something from the bottom up”28 In other words, effective mobilizing is required to inspire others to get involved so that injustices are more likely to be righted.

The chemical formula of recognition and commitment was precisely the catalyst that sparked the successful sit-in movement in Greensboro, North Carolina, in the 1960s. Consider this timeline of events. Day 1 (Feb. 1, 1960): four North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University students—Ezell Blair Jr. (now Jibreel Khazan), David Richmond, Joseph McNeil, and Franklin McCain—sat at a whites-only lunch counter at the Elm Street Woolworth to protest the injustice of segregated lunch counters.29 Given the violence that was rampant in the south during that era, clearly these four young men were willing to sacrifice their immediate future, and even their lives, to right a wrong: inequality.

That is the sort of bravery that raises consciousness and inspires others to get off the fence and act.

And that is exactly what happened. Day 2 (Feb. 2, 1960): 29 protesters sat in at segregated lunch counters. Day 3: the number of protesters was up to 63. By Day 6, more people wanted to become “involved in shaping their destinies,” and over 1,400 protesters sat in.30 In two months’ time the sit-in movement spread to 54 cities in nine states.31 Within six months F.W. Woolworth integrated its Greensboro store.

That combination of recognition, commitment, and bravery is not unique to the sit-in movement either. When, for generations, African Americans in Mississippi were not permitted to register to vote, organizers of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee recognized this issue and resolved to do something about it. During what was called Freedom Summer in 1964, hundreds of youths bravely risked everything to go to Mississippi to register voters and fight to ensure that everyone who wanted to could vote.

And saying they risked everything is not hyperbole. On Sunday, June 21, 1964, volunteer Andrew Goodman and student organizers James Chaney and Michael Schwerner paid the ultimate sacrifice during the 1964 Freedom Summer and were assassinated while working to ensure the right to vote for every American.32

Again, that is the sort of bravery that inspires others to get off the fence and act and create movements. That is exactly what occurred in this instance: after the brutal assassination of these young men, hundreds upon hundreds more volunteers joined the Freedom Summer movement until public opinion shifted and enough pressure was created to serve as one of the major catalysts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; this statute outlawed the very sort of intimidation and tactics used in Mississippi to prevent African Americans from voting.

While injustice surrounds us daily, we must not allow ourselves to become so desensitized to injustice that we accept it. Instead we must internalize it sufficiently to act and do so in a way that indicates the sort of bravery and commitment to inspire not one or two, but the masses, to join in the fight for justice.

Messaging and Framing—Speak in Universal Tongues
Since deficits in human will can be overcome only by the sustained efforts of a large and diverse coalition, each action within the movement must speak truth to the issue without unnecessarily alienating potential allies. As some of the above examples show, the tactics and framing of the respective campaigns all resonate with the broadest possible audience.

It’s Not Just What You Do, But How You Do It. Our history demonstrates primarily two mobilization methods, namely, violent and nonviolent action.

While violence defined both the way in which America obtained its independence and the way in which the Union was formed, it is ineffective at best as it relates to efforts to create lasting change in the modern American democracy. Dr. King explained it best:

[Violence] is not a solution to the problems. I think the ultimate weakness of violence, practically, and morally, is the fact that [it] never really deals with the basic evil in the situation. Violence may murder the murderer, but it doesn’t murder murder. Violence may murder the [liar], but it doesn’t murder the life; it doesn’t establish truth. Violence may even murder the dishonest man, but it doesn’t murder dishonesty. Violence may go to the point of murder[ing] the hater, but it doesn’t murder hate. It may increase hate. This is the ultimate weakness of violence, that it multiplies evil and vi[o]lence in the universe. It doesn’t solve any problems.33

Conversely, nearly every major social change since the Civil War has come as a result of nonviolent, direct action. Nonviolent action spans all manner of protest: marches, sit-ins, calls to legislators, gathering petition signatures, boycotting, and social-media campaigns. Each of these actions, if targeted, has proven to be effective.

One Size Does Not Fit All. Successful petition campaigns initially involve correspondence between a small group of individuals and the aggrieving party requesting that the aggrieving party correct its behavior. If that does not occur, then a vigorous petition campaign follows. Such a petition campaign reflects enough commitment to get the attention and participation of those potentially aggrieved and any media coverage to augment their efforts. At that point, between the signatures, the negative press, and possibly the loss of sales, the aggrieving party corrects the underlying injustice. Petition campaigns that have gone through precisely those steps have been very successful.34

Similarly boycotts, if properly focused, can be an “economic lever used to address injustices.”35 In addition to sit-ins and protests, boycotts bolstered efforts to integrate public facilities.36 Quite possibly the most notable boycott was the Montgomery bus boycott; it began in a coordinated fashion with Rosa Parks sitting in the front of a bus, and a 381-day bus boycott followed.37That sustained boycott, along with the media and other attention and efforts, created the economic lever; the bus system responsible for the injustice responded to the economic lever and desegregated. That boycott also resulted in the court pronouncing desegregation of the buses the law of the land.38

The power of the consumer was leveraged regularly and formally through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Operation Breadbasket.39 Not just withdrawing support from businesses engaged in disagreeable practices, Operation Breadbasket actively encouraged people to support businesses whose practices they found to be acceptable and positive—whether they were fair hiring practices or the businesses’ support for the community at large.40 These campaigns were consistently successful on the local level.

Actions—whether sit-ins, boycotts, or other direct actions—have historically been effective only when properly targeted and when they have sufficient, sustained support. A messaging strategy that is also media savvy is necessary to broaden and mobilize coalitions and maximize the benefit of media coverage.

Messaging Should Have Many Faces but Only One Voice. Even when an injustice is recognized, commitment is evident, and sound strategy is employed, a unifying message is necessary to broaden the audience and create the diverse, large coalitions necessary to overcome the deficit in human will.

A unifying message is necessary to broaden the audience and create the diverse, large coalitions necessary to overcome the deficit in human will.

Accepting generational poverty is incompatible with the values that influenced the founding documents and principles that gave birth to America: liberty, equality, morality, and opportunity. Poverty is un-American. That is an overarching message that triggers a connection to something far broader than the notion of poverty; it causes people to identify with the very values that we all hold dear.

Within that large theme, there can be multiple subthemes that are also unifying but may resonate more with different audiences. For example, during the Poor People’s Campaign, Dr. King had a unifying, poverty-related message that brought thousands of people from all over the nation together. That message did not see poverty as an economic question, or even a political question, but a moral one. Homelessness, hunger, joblessness, inadequate access to health care, and substandard education are not just societal woes; these are daily reminders of our failure, as a society, to honor our moral obligation, our duty as Americans, not to turn our heads in the face of suffering, not to ignore the tears of those in pain, not to turn our backs on the “least of these.”

While moral mandates move some, President Johnson opted to focus on the unifying notions of global competitiveness and the girding principles of opportunity for all when he said that “the United States can achieve its full economic and social potential as a nation only if every individual has the opportunity to contribute to the full extent of his capabilities and to participate in the workings of our society.” 41

The media exposure also created the large, diverse coalition necessary to overcome the “deficit in human will” and effectively pressure leaders to take action.

Regardless of the message chosen, selecting slogans or messages in a vacuum is not wise. Ask for feedback from an informal focus group, as Dr. King did when he consulted Ralph Abernathy, Bayard Rustin, Marian Wright, Jesse Jackson, Stanley Levison, and others before announcing the Poor People’s Campaign on December 4, 1967.42

Strategizing About Media—Why Should We Care?
Any media campaign should make the case to the general public for why the public should care. A media campaign should also have a negative media mitigation strategy to combat the inevitable negative press.

The civil rights movement organizers often had a photographer or videographer who captured images such as those of bloodied youths, dogs chasing down women, and hoses being used to subdue people of color.43 Images of such vile behavior flooded the news and newspapers and led to an unprecedented level of exposure that inspired people of all races and classes to come together to magnify the call for freedom and jobs for all in the face of evident hatred. The media exposure also created the large, diverse coalition necessary to overcome the “deficit in human will” and effectively pressure leaders to take action. And on June 11, 1963, Pres. John Fitzgerald Kennedy did something magnificent; he gave a speech that, among other points, asked that Congress produce a bill “giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishment,” and “greater protection for the right to vote.”44 President Kennedy’s speech, coupled with the generation of blood, sweat, and tears in the name of freedom by concerned individuals from all corners of the world, including the lunch-counter protests in Greensboro, the Freedom Rides to Mississippi, and the Montgomery bus boycott, resulted in the introduction of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (signed into law on July 2, 1964, by President Johnson) and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

While that media strategy worked, there were also some failures. As to poverty, Dr. King and President Johnson both recognized the problem, committed to it with action, and brought forth unifying messages. One nonviolent action involved 5,000 people, from all over the nation, travelling from their hometowns to Washington, D.C., to pitch tents and form Resurrection City on the National Mall, where thousands resided for over six weeks, in hopes of bringing the same level of exposure to the plight of people of low income.45 However, this action backfired. Instead of documenting the plight of those of low income and the injustices that result in poverty, the media depicted the people in Resurrection City as lazy and taking advantage of the system. Those media themes were the seeds planted in the minds and hearts of those watching coverage of the movement. This media coverage discredited the Poor People’s Campaign movement and largely contributed to its eventual failure and to deflating the national urge to fight poverty.46

Lost in the chaos were the demands of the Poor People’s Campaign. The campaign demanded the implementation of an Economic Bill of Rights. The proposed bill was framed through the lens of the Bill of Rights and stated, “We demand our inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as represented by ensuring “a meaningful job at a living wage”; “a secure and adequate income” for all those unable to find or do a job; “access to land” for economic uses; “access to capital” for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses; and ability for ordinary people to “play a truly significant role” in the government.47

Fighting to Eliminate Poverty Is as American as Apple Pie

A small, albeit dedicated, group of organizations recognizes poverty as a grave injustice and is committed to fighting it; those organizations fight poverty mostly because it is the right thing to do (moral reasons). Others still fight poverty, whether they admit it or not, in an effort to increase America’s global competitiveness (for economic reasons).

Thanks to Sargent Shriver, Dr. King, and the individuals and organizations that carry on their legacy, we have nearly all of the ideas we need to eradicate poverty. We even have the resources to make the investments necessary to ensure that everyone can fulfill one’s potential, work, pay taxes, and increase our nation’s productivity. And while the same caricatures are used to describe people of low income as were used 50 years ago, now we know better.48

We know that poverty is not due to laziness. To believe otherwise is to ignore that “the poor” is not a fixed population of people who remain in poverty year after year.49 For example, only 3.5 percent of people in poverty remained in poverty all three years between 2009 and 2011.50 To believe that poverty is due to laziness is also to ignore that, of the low-income people who have come to need the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to stave off hunger, over 60 percent are involved in the workforce in some way.51

We also know that simply having money does not eliminate the risk of poverty. In reality, the vast majority of people who fall into poverty had financial stability previously and lost it due to job loss, disability, someone’s failing health, or the birth of a child.52

Nearly 80 percent of Americans between 25 and 64 experience at least one year of “significant economic insecurity.”53

Thus “[p]overty is no longer a ‘them’ issue; it’s an ‘us’ issue.” 54

Just as we documented the bravery of the men and women enduring injustice in other eras, so we need to document the plight of all men and women who bravely scrape and claw for a shot at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: the steelworker whose job was shipped overseas and has no other jobs available within hundreds of miles; the only child who does not have enough sick days to care for her ailing mother and keep her job; the 45-year-old man who sustained a debilitating injury that forces him to do only menial hourly work; or the young man whose only crime was being born in a zip code where the accessible education is known to be substandard, neighborhood shootings have his childhood on house arrest, and his parents do not have the means to save him from the only pipeline program available to him: prison.

For these men, women, and children, poverty is not about being lazy; it is not even about money. It is simply about grappling with the ups and downs that we all experience.

These individuals deserve a chance. A chance at Life. A chance at Liberty. A chance to pursue Happiness.

But what they deserve most is our will.

Millions cried tears that were never wiped away; bled from wounds that were never tended; millions willingly gave their lives so that others would be able to taste the very liberty, equality, and opportunity promised by our forefathers on July 4, 1776. We cannot let them down.

Todd Belcore
Lead Attorney, Community Justice

Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
50 E. Washington St. Suite 500
Chicago, IL 60602

1 Charters of Freedom, The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription (n.d.).

2 Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (Brown v. Board of Education is landmark case in which U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled unconstitutional state laws making separate public schools for black and white students; decision was significant because it overturned Plessy v. Ferguson, 163 U.S. 537 (1896), which permitted states to segregate in public education and beyond; Brown pierced armor of segregation and cleared path for integration in civil rights movement).

3 Charters of Freedom, supra note 1.

4 King Center, MLK Speech at [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] Staff Retreat 18 (Nov. 14, 1966).

5 Carmen DeNavas-Walt et al., U.S. Census Bureau, Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012 app. B (Sept. 2013) (family of three living on $18,000 per year in present day is example of family living in poverty); see id. at 13 (Fig. 4. Number in Poverty and Poverty Rate: 1959 to 2012).

6 King Center, supra note 4, at 17.

7 Id.

8 Id. at 18.

9 Id.

10 Id.

11 DeNavas-Walt et al., supra note 5, at 13 (fig. 4).

12 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey (n.d.) (when considering relative unemployment rate in October 1966 (3.7 percent) and rate in July 2014 (6.2 percent)).

13 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey: Household Data Annual Averages (Feb. 26, 2014) (African American unemployment among men and women 25 years or over being 11.1 percent and 10 percent, respectively, versus 5.6 percent and 5.3 percent for Caucasian males and females, respectively; African American unemployment among men and women 16 years or over being 14.2 percent and 12.1 percent, respectively, versus 6.8 and 6.2 for Caucasian males and females, respectively).

14 Rebecca Vallas et al., Center for American Progress, Time for a 21st Century Social Contract (Aug. 11, 2014).

15 Id.

16 Richard Rothstein, Economic Policy Institute, For Public Schools, Segregation Then, Segregation Since 14 (Aug. 27, 2013) (in 1970–1971 African Americans “typically attended schools where enrollment was 32 percent white” versus 29.2 percent white in 2009–2010).

17 National Low Income Housing Coalition, America’s Affordable Housing Shortage, and How to End It, Housing Spotlight (Feb. 2013) (“in 2011, there were only 3 million units that were both affordable and available to the 10.1 million ELI [Extremely Low Income, per U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s income categories] renter households”).

18 Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community 151 (1967).

19 Brown, 347 U.S. 483 .

20 Washington v. Davis, 426 U.S. 229 (1976) (requires that plaintiffs prove both that law or official act has discriminatory effect and that it was undertaken with discriminatory motive—sort of racist or sexist, smoking gun evidence nearly never found in modern era); Wal-Mart Stores Incorporated v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011) (classified commonality necessary for class certification far more narrowly such that finding individuals who meet that standard and having requisite money to figure that out is extremely difficult).

21 Henry Rose, The Poor as a Suspect Class Under the Equal Protection Clause: An Open Constitutional Question, 34 Nova Law Review 407 (2010); Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional scholar, states in his constitutional law hornbook: “In San Antonio School District v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court expressly held that poverty is not a suspect classification and that discrimination against the poor should only receive rational basis review” (Erwin Chemerinsky, Constitutional Law: Principles and Policies 786 (3d ed. 2006) (citing San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973))).

22 King Center, supra note 4, at 3.

23 Lyndon B. Johnson, State of the Union (Jan. 8, 1964).

24 Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2701; Johnson, supra note 23.

25 Glenn R. Capp, The Great Society: A Sourcebook of Speeches 164–74 (1967) (testimony by W. Willard Wirtz, U.S. secretary of labor, before Select Committee on Poverty, Committee on Labor and Public Welfare, U.S. Senate (June 17, 1967)).

26 DeNavas-Walt et al., supra note 5, at 13 (fig. 4) (36 million in poverty in 1964 versus 24 million in 1969; and 19.5 percent in poverty in 1964 versus 12 percent in 1969).

27 King Center, supra note 4, at 3.

28 Id. at 4.

29, Greensboro Sit-ins: Launch of a Civil Rights Movement (2014).

30 National Civil Rights Museum, Standing Up by Sitting Down: Student Sit-Ins 1960 (2014) (Greensboro Sit-In Exhibit).

31, supra note 29.

32 Civil Rights Movement Veterans, Mississippi Freedom Summer Events: Lynching of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman (Jan.–June 1964).

33 King Center, supra note 4, at 26.

34 Press Release,, Major Companies Leave ALEC as ColorOfChange Organizing Effort Continues: Corporate Exodus Proves Strategic Success of African-American Online Lobby (May 3, 2012) (“PepsiCo Vice President for Public Policy/Government Affairs Paul Boykas confirmed in a letter to ColorOfChange that the company would drop membership in ALEC. The victory came after months of correspondence between the civil rights group and the company related to ALEC’s role in pushing voter ID laws that will suppress the Black vote in the upcoming election. These bills—crafted by ALEC as “model” legislation—stand to disenfranchise up to 5 million eligible voters, including African Americans, Latinos, the elderly, youth and rural residents.”).

35 King, supra note 18, at 151.

36 Id. at 151 (“It was not marching alone that brought about integration of public facilities in 1963. The downtown establishments suffered for weeks under our almost unbelievably effective boycott. The significant percentage of their sales that vanished, the 98 percent of their Negro customers who stayed home, educated them forcefully to the dignity of the Negro as a consumer.”).

37 Montgomery Bus Boycott: Timeline (n.d.).

38 Browder v. Gayle, 142 F. Supp. 707 (1956).

39 King, supra note 18, at 152.

40 Id. (fair hiring practices, in this instance, relate to considering proportion of qualified people of color in area versus number hired by particular entity, level of access of qualified applicants of color to all pay grades, whether businesses were willing to carry minority-owned businesses’ products and invest in community by depositing their money in local banks, and other such factors).

41 Johnson, supra note 23.

42 In February 1968 Dr. King announced specific demands: $30 billion for antipoverty, full employment, guaranteed income, and the annual construction of 500,000 affordable residences (Mark Engler, Dr. Martin Luther King’s Economics: Through Jobs, Freedom, Nation (Jan. 15, 2010)). See also Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., Press Conference Announcing the Poor People’s Campaign (Dec. 4, 1967).

43 E.g., Civil Rights Protest in the 60’s: The 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders (May 31, 2011).

44 John F. Kennedy, Address on Civil Rights (June 11, 1963).

45 Sharon Shahid, Newseum, In News History: Dateline: Resurrection City (Feb 7, 2012).

46 The Southern Christian Leadership Conference aptly presented the complexities of Resurrection City. The National Mall was renamed “Resurrection City” because it was “‘the resurrection of the living concept of community…. An integral part of community, both in its ability to function and in the need for participation and involvement of the entire community[,] is service’” (Amy Nathan Wright, Civil Rights “Unfinished Business”: Poverty, Race, and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign (Aug. 2007) (Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin)). Yet various media outlets were not as generous. Resurrection City was painted as a “true-to-life squalor—an ill-housed, ill-fed, self-segregated, absentee-run slum afflicted with low morale, deepening restiveness, and free-floating violence.” (Let No One Be Denied, Newsweek, July 1, 1968, at 20–21); see also Tough Job for New Leader of Big Protest: Trying to Avoid Violence, U.S. News and World Report, June 24, 1968, at 16.

47 King Center, Economic and Social Bill of Rights 2–6 (Feb. 6, 1968).

48 Robert Reich, Robert Reich: 3 Biggest Right-Wing Lies About Poverty, Salon (June 17, 2014).

49 Melissa Boteach, Center for American Progress, Reimagining Our Social Contract: The Safety Net Is Social Insurance for All Americans (Aug. 11, 2014).

50 Id.

51 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Welfare Indicators and Risk Factors: Thirteenth Report to Congress tbl.IND 1a (n.d.).

52 Boteach, supra note 49.

53 Robert Rank, Chasing the American Dream: Understanding What Shapes Our Fortunes 37 tbl.3.1 (2014).

54 Id. at 37 tbl.3.1.

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