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tv   1968 Poor Peoples Campaign  CSPAN  April 4, 2018 11:43pm-12:40am EDT

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a public service by america's television cable companies and today we continue to bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. the national amuse of african-american history and culture recently opened an exhibit looking at the 1968 poor people's campaign, which martin luther king jr. organized to shift the focus of the civil rights movement to economic issues. reverend king was assassinated weeks before the campaign began in washington, d.c. a panel of civil rights activists and smithsonian museum staff looked at the impact of the poor people's campaign as well as its legacy. this is an hour. >> it's our pleasure to welcome you to this media event for city
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of hope. you're in for a wonderful discussion from some brilliant people. my name, because they told me it's so, is kinshasha holman conwill. these lovely men are both named mark, which is convenient. marc morial, distinguished president of the national urban league and mark steiner, who is a brilliant journalist and a former and current activist in social justice. you'll hear a lot more from them later, and they'll be joined by other folks you'll see shortly. to get us started and before you hear from director bunch and the curator, i'd love to bring to
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the podium one of my favorite people at the smithsonian. he is a distinguished leader of this institution and his official title is the elizabeth mcmillian director of the smithsonian's national museum of american history. and he's part of our top collaborators in the work that we do, particularly with the exhibition space we have at the american museum. john. [ applause ] >> well, good morning, and it is a pleasure to welcome all of you to your national museum of american history. and i would say, if ever there is a time in america where we need historic understanding as well as museums that present history in ways in which people can understand their role in democracy, it is today. and the show that you'll be discussing is a prime example of that. as we at this museum have a major show on american
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democracy, one of the key components of that is the way citizens can participate in our nation. and one of the key ways of doing that is through protest. honoring protest and understanding protest in the context of the larger arc of american history is very important. i'd also say that we have been honored and privileged to have our wonderful neighbor for so long in this building providing extraordinary shows. it's also been an honor to watch the development of the museum next door. and working with them and understanding ways in which american history's presented that includes all of us over the arc of our history is fundamentally important to where we're going in the future. and so for that we really thank
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lo lonni and his whole team enormously for what they have done and what they have taught us, and i would say most importantly, what we're all going to do for america to help us understand who we are, why we're here and where we're going. thank you all very, very much. >> john, thank you. and i'm happy to report that we've been joined by peter edelman, who you'll be hearing from a little bit later. welcome, peter. and as promised, one of the folks who makes all that we do possible is our founding director. he's kind of our north star. lonni bunch, who you've heard a little bit about probably over the years. he's a veteran of the smithsonian institution and former director of the chicago history museum, but for over 13 years he has done the work to lead with his vision the
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creation of the national museum of african-american history and culture. and he's traveled the country wide and the world gathering artifacts, making friends, raising a lot of money and getting a wonderful team of colleagues, some of whom are with us today, and we would not be in this situation of having a museum that's been called a gift to america without his leadership. please join me in welcoming the founding director of the smithsonian's 19th and newest museum, lon museum,y bunch. >> good morning, everybody. i'm so pleased you're here. this is an important moment for
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us, the smithsonian, the city of washington. thank you for being with us at this media briefing on our newest exhibit, a city of hope. let me first thank kinshasha for her leadership and i want to acknowledge the partnership we've had with john gray. they've been one of our most important partners and i think just like any exhibition we've done, it's made better by the touch of american history. so, john, thank you very much for your involvement. and i'm so pleased to have our special guests here. to have marc morial is peter edelman and mark steiner who will share their important perspectives on this later. thank you, gentlemen, for being with us. in 2018, there will be so much attention and discourse, rightly so, about the 50th anniversary of the assassination of martin luther king jr. at the national museum of african-american history and culture, we decided to acknowledge that moment not by
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focussing on king's death, by helping the public remember his legacy and the issues, some of which are still unmet, that really -- that he challenged america to address. while many celebrate king's leadership for the battle for racial justice, his last campaign, the struggle for economic justice, is often undervalued and less understood. when recalling resurrection city, people often remember the rain and the mud but not the meaning. they remember the brief duration of 43 days when resurrection city was populated but not its long-term impact, and often people think that after resurrection city the war on poverty was won. but to understand the poor people's campaign, it's essential to remember the cl calamitous year of 1968.
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1968 was the year when all the pain, all the violence, all the fragmentation and all the hope of the 1960s seemed to combust. america was volatile and fragile with great political, racial and generational chasms over the war in vietnam, over the long, hot summers of urban under arrest, over the murder of dr. king and later the murder of robert kennedy, but out of this pain and uncertainty emerged the poor people's campaign, a campaign shaped by both hurt and hope that sought to find a way through a multiracial collaboration to alleviate the poverty that defined too many communities. this exhibition allows us to appreciate the planning, the sacrifices and the commitment to fulfilling dr. king's dream that was at the heart of the poor people's campaign. and it also candidly repositions dr. ralph abernathy as an
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effective leader of the post-king civil rights movement. while it's clear resurrection city did not end poverty, it did help focus america's attention on the vast and diverse array of americans trapped by poverty. by examining the six-week encampment on the national mall, candidly, it's hard not to see the contemporary resonance of the poor people's campaign. after all, the mall has been the site of so many moments where people have demanded a changed america. african-americans have used this bully pulpit of that expansive land from the lincoln memorial to the capitol to demand equality, from marion anderson in 1939 to the march on washington in 1963, to the poor people's campaign, to the million-man march. it's become sacred space to ask america to change. the images and the artifacts
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within this exhibition are reminders that despite the economic growth and prosperity that has shaped this nation since 1968, there are still millions of americans without access to the american dream of economic opportunity. we hope this exhibition encourages visitors to re-examine dr. king as somebody who demanded an america where economic opportunity would accompany demand for equal political and social rights. one of the strengths of the poor people's campaign was its ability to bring together people of many different backgrounds, african-american, latino, native american, white americans, who shared one common thing, they shared an understanding of the pain of poverty and they shared a commitment to using that diverse coalition to prod, to push, to demand that america live up to the promise and the
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constitution and the declaration. in essence, like dr. king, they dreamed of an america that not yet existed. but they were willing to sacrifice so much to make it so. ultimately, this exhibition posits that average citizens can help america to be made better, can help america live up to our stated ideals, and that the best way to honor the ultimate sacrifice of dr. king is to cross those boundaries that divide, boundaries of race, gender, ethnicity, to demand a fairer and freer america. thank you very much for being with us this morning. [ applause ] >> thanks so much, lonnie. i'd also like to ask if aaron, the curator of the exhibition, could join us in the seats up here? after that terrific framing of
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-- no, we want you up here, my love. yes, because you're the curator. what the heck? and as our brilliant aaron is getting situated, i just want to remind everyone that we are live streaming today's event and the hashtag, because i know lonnie wants to know this, particularly being such a twitterer, it's #cityofhope. you can go to our feed and find the exact link because the letters that my brilliant colleague sent me are much too small for me to see. after the http, i'm lost, but #cityofhope. surely if you find that on twitter, you'll find the brilliant tweets they've already done. we're going to start with some questions of the panelists that i'm going to raise and then we're going to follow with questions from you, so please be ready because it won't be long. i'm going to start with marc
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morial. marc morial is not only the distinguished president of the national urban league, the largest civil rights organization in this country and one of the oldest civil rights organizations, he's also the former mayor of new orleans and he's only 25 years old, it's amazing. but, mark, tell us, you know, the role of major civil rights organizations like the urban leak, the naacp, the legal defense fund, sclc, the power behind this day, these days was important. but tell us a little bit, mark, about the role of those national organizations in galvanizing people for action and what that looks like today, mark. >> thank you very much. first of all, good morning. >> good morning. >> happy new year. and i do apologize that i'm going to have to excuse myself at about 9:29. because i've got to catch a 10:00 train to philadelphia where i have to make another
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presentation at noon. so thank you all for allowing me to go first. this is what's important reflecting back 50 years, the historic civil rights organizations, the historic civil rights organizations, the naacp, the national urban league, the southern christian leadership conference, the naacp legal definite fund, national council of negro women, were united in doing many things in the 1960s. the march on washington as an example. and while more is made of differences, the historical record demonstrates that these organizations worked together and in unison, even with some spirited debate about whether the best tactics, and there was a debate, was litigation or whether the best tactics was direct action and protest or whether the best actions were later on a more militant and
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strident approach that was championed by many young people. what is striking to me about 1968 and about this campaign is how meaningful the economic bill of rights that was published by the poor people's campaign is today. they published a bill of rights, and i'm going to read it because i think this is the heart of why i believe that in many respects what this ought to be about is, we now must pick up the baton of the 1968 poor people's campaign and run anew. so the first bill of right was meaningful job at a living wage. the second was, security -- secure and adequate income for
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those who cannot find a job or do a job. access to land for economic uses. access to capital for poor people and minorities to promote their own businesses. ability for ordinary people to play a truly significant role in the government. this poor people's campaign, which was really an iteration by martin luther king to do a number of things. one, to pivot and expand to a focus on economic justice and economic rights in a very determined way, understanding that the '64 civil rights act and the '65 voting rights act were important tools and pillars, but that they were missing dynamics in how people's quality of life could be improved. the second thing that was very determined about this poor people's campaign is that it was multicultural, multiracial.
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there was an intentional effort to meld together, this is 1968, poor whites, latinos and african-americans in a concerted visible effort to push this visible effort to push this economic bill of rights. captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2008 captioning performed by vitac
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