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Background information about "Resurrection City" (previously and erroneously identified on this site as "Renaissance City") - a Poor People's Campaign 'camp-in' demonstration initiated by Martin Luther King, Jr. shortly before his death by assassination.

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Eyes on the Prize: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965-85
A Viewers Guide to the Series/Educators Edition
Program 4
The Promised Land (1967-1968)

On April 3, 1968 King delivers his "mountaintop" speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis, in which he states, "We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life; longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And he's allowed me to go up to the mountain, and I've looked over, and I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the promised land."

The following day Andrew Young succeeds in getting a federal injunction lifted so that the activists will be allowed once again to march in support of the striking workers (Memphis sanitation workers). That evening, when King steps out onto the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, he is shot by an assassin.

King's death stuns the world and presents a tremendous challenge to the bereaved activists of the civil rights community. Riots erupt in more than a hundred cities nationwide.

SCLC staffers decide to push on with the Poor People's Campaign and, five weeks after King's death, they build Resurrection City on the Mall in Washington, housing poor people -- mostly black, some Hispanic and Native American, and a handful of whites -- from across the country.

Resurrection City, awash in a sea of mud, never successfully articulates the needs of the poor or their demands for remedies. Two months after King's death, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, now a movement ally and presidential candidate, is also assassinated.

The federal government soon razes Resurrection City. Neither Congress nor the president has responded in any meaningful way to the presence of the poor in their midst. As Poor People's Campaign organizer Marian Wright Edelman later remarked, "1968 was an extraordinarily difficult year. I mean, we lost Martin. We lost Bobby. And for those of us who were determined to carry on the legacy of Martin, it was a time to regroup and rethink and get up and figure out new strategies, to build new paths toward the future."

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