Saving the Soul of this Nation: The Launch of the Poor People’s Campaign

February 8, 2018

Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC

The Soul of our Nation

On December 4, 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr., called for a Poor People’s Campaign. In what was seen by many at the time as a radical departure from his previous civil rights work, he sought to find common interest across all races, religions, and backgrounds and unite the nation’s poor in a campaign to end poverty.

His life was tragically cut short just months later.

On December 4, 2017, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, and a new generation of civil- and human-rights leaders launched a new Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC, recommitting to Dr. King’s call and building on his legacy and vision, with one mission: saving “the soul of this nation.”

Poor People’s Campaign in Washington, DC

Only the Beginning

We were honored to be there with Rev. Barber and Rev. Theoharis, along with hundreds of others, when they launched the new campaign at a packed press conference in the morning and, afterward, walked over to take direct action at the Capitol.

We were inspired by the voices of grassroots leaders and frontline communities at We Are Here that evening, a mass meeting and rally held at the historic Howard Theater. Faith leaders, activists, and musicians all helped to kick off the new Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.

But that was only the beginning.

Singer singing at Poor People’s Campaign

Now, More than Ever

With the gap between rich and poor at record levels, with ugly racist incidents and hate crimes on the rise, with military spending ballooning, and the environment increasingly at risk (and disportionality impacting communities of color), the need for a Poor People’s Campaign is as necessary today as it was 50 years ago.

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis

Rev. Barber and Rev. Theoharis have been traveling the country for years laying the groundwork for the new campaign. They’ve met with local groups, impacted communities. They’ve held rallies and workshops, they’ve talked and, more importantly, they’ve listened. They are the co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign, but as they said on December 4, they serve the movement. This campaign is led by the people. And people are ready for change.

So, starting on Mother’s Day, May 13, there will be 40 days of direct action in communities all over the US. There will be nonviolent civil disobedience. There will marches on state capitol buildings. “We aren’t going to protest in a corner somewhere,” Barber told the crowd in DC. “The US Capitol, US State Houses are the people’s houses. These are OUR houses.”

These direct actions will conclude with a mass mobilization on June 23 in Washington, DC.

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

Much Work Remains to Be Done

In the 50 years between Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign and today, some things have certainly changed for the better. But you might be surprised how much hasn’t changed at all, or has even gotten worse.

The Souls of Poor Folk,” an analysis put together by the Poor People’s Campaign and the Institute for Policy Studies, takes a look at just how much more work must be done to confront and eliminate systemic racism, systemic poverty, environmental degradation, and American militarism.

The good news is, we can do this. Black and white alike, these issues affect, and connect, all of us. When we come together, there’s nothing we can’t do.


Join Us

We need a new Poor People’s Campaign. We need to stand up and stand together to see Dr. King’s vision realized. Our democracy, and the “soul of this nation,” depends on all of us speaking as one to demand change.

Will you join us? Will you join Rev. Barber, Rev. Theoharis, and the thousands of others willing to put their bodies on the line to revive and reclaim our democracy?

The time is now. Let’s change the world.