Club members were treated to a fascinating talk by Dr. Robert Hamilton on Martin Luther King Junior‘s last great crusade in 1968, ‘The Poor Peoples Campaign’. While best known for his civil rights activities, this highlighted Martin Luther King Jr.’s deep concerns for the extreme poverty many Americans were experiencing in the 1960’s, regardless of their race.

Dr Hamilton’s book details the troubled times in America (1966 – 1968); with the rise of Black Power, a white backlash against civil rights , the controversial Vietnam war and rioting in American cities from coast to coast. And in many ways ‘The Poor Peoples Campaign’ was seen by many as socialist (not meant as a compliment) or even communist and an assault on capitalism itself.

However even in this climate Mr King steadfastly pursued his policy of non-violent protest and though he himself was assassinated on April 4th 1968 the campaign continued on without him. Nine freedom / mule trails were established with caravans of people (and some mules!) from all four corners of America marching on Washington DC. Here in the late fall they established ‘Resurrection City’, a makeshift shanty town of huts along the famous mall from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument. With up to 40 demonstrations a day for over 6 weeks, the harrowing accounts of deprivation of ordinary hard working American citizens forced the US Government into improving the welfare laws, a multi-million dollar boost for social housing and raising the visibility of poverty in America that had for too long been such a low priority.

In the Smithsonian today there can still be seen sections of the Hunger Wall, where poor people scribbled brief slogans and pithy messages concerning their everyday struggle against poverty.

From a writer’s point of view Mr Hamilton did share with GWC the genesis of his book. It began with three articles, the first in 2014 on ‘Resurrection City, the second in 2015 on the mule trails and the third a more general one on Martin Luther King Jr. and poverty. He then applied for and was granted a contract for a book by The University of Georgia Press in April 2017. With access to five of the major MLK archives and many interviews with eyewitnesses (including Bernard Lafayette – the campaign director) Mr Hamilton began the long process of piecing his book together chapter by chapter. And after five years of hard effort it was finally published in 2019.

Next week is Peer Editing week so please (if you wish) have your copies of David’s story (A Roll of the Dice) printed off with your constructive comments written on them. There is no obligation to read out your comments on the night. If you prefer you may simply pass along your comments (anonymously) at the end of the evening.

Onwards and Upwards.