Who Is Continuing Martin Luther King's Fight Against Poverty? With inequality still growing, who is carrying on Martin Luther King's economic fight today?

Want to support 1A? Give to your local public radio station and subscribe to our podcast. Have questions? Find us on Twitter @1a.
NPR logo

Who Is Continuing Martin Luther King's Fight Against Poverty?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/687182369/687234504" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Who Is Continuing Martin Luther King's Fight Against Poverty?

1A

Who Is Continuing Martin Luther King's Fight Against Poverty?

Who Is Continuing Martin Luther King's Fight Against Poverty?

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/687182369/687234504" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

This episode was recorded in April 2018.

A labor dispute took Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis in April 1968. Sanitation workers were on strike. King's support was part of the Poor People's Campaign, an anti-poverty initiative that he imagined would lead to another march on Washington.

Economic issues were central to King's civil rights advocacy. The 1963 demonstration he led in the capital was called the "March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom." And he frequently spoke of the need to fight poverty.

"It's all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps," King said in 1968.

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see than an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring," he said in 1967.

King wrote in his book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos Or Community?, "I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income."

The economic side of civil rights has often been overlooked, though it's always been present. John F. Kennedy said there wasn't much value in a man "obtaining the right to be admitted to hotels and restaurants if he has no cash in his pocket and no job," in a discussion about legislation in 1962.

With economic inequality growing, who is carrying on King's economic fight today?