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The Goals of the Poor People's Campaign, 1968

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One of the challenges for the Poor People's Campaign was that it did not present a single, clear message. The SCLC issued Statements of Demands for Rights of the Poor in late April, broadly listing the goals of their action. The list was distributed to many in government, including Congressional offices, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, and the Department of Justice.

By early June, activist Bayard Rustin had drafted an "Economic Bill of Rights," which he published in the New York Times with more specific aims intended to convince the middle class and labor groups to support the action.

Both statements are excerpted here.


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.


1. Recommit the Federal Government to the Full Employment Act of 1946 and legislate the immediate creation of at least one million socially useful career jobs in public service;

2. Adopt the pending housing and urban development act of 1968;

3. Repeal the 90th Congress's punitive welfare restrictions in the 1967 Social Security Act...;

4. Extend to all farm workers the right -- guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act - to organize agricultural labor unions;

5. Restore budget cuts for bilingual education, Head Start, summer jobs, Economic Opportunity Act, Elementary and Secondary Education Acts.

Sources: SCLC Papers, and Bayard Rustin, "Call to Americans of Goodwill." The New York Times, June 5, 1968, p. 49. Cited by Robert T. Chase, "Class Resurrection: The Poor People's Campaign of 1968 and Resurrection City." Essays in History 40 (1998). http://etext.virginia.edu/journals/EH/EH40/chase40.html

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