Editor's note: See CNN's complete coverage of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
By Stephanie Siek, CNN
(CNN) - On Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday, some will volunteer, some will attend celebrations of his life and legacy, some will do nothing at all. "I have a dream," the title of King's best known speech, will be repeated countless times, along with well-known stories about his commitment to nonviolence, his letters from a Birmingham jail, his marches against segregation and the bullet that ended his life on April 4, 1968.
But few will remember how King lived his last birthday, as he turned 39 on January 15, 1968.
According to accounts of the day retold by Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III, King spent the day working on a campaign that he hoped would force Washington and the American public to acknowledge and resolve the problem of poverty for people of all races, religions and backgrounds in the United States. The Poor People's Campaign was the agenda for the day, with a short break for birthday cake.
While King's dream, the march on Washington and fight against segregation are well-known to children and adults now, fewer are aware that King spent the last months of his life fighting poverty.
When he died in Memphis, he was there to support fair wages and union representation for Memphis sanitation workers.
Rebecca Burns, who wrote about King's last days, death, and burial in "Burial for a King," said King's antiwar and anti-poverty legacy are overshadowed in part because their solutions are more elusive.
"It’s a much more complex issue – it's not, pardon my choice of words, as black and white as voting rights or where you sit on a bus," Burns said. "It’s harder to talk about that in sound bites."
Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, said that King's dreams of economic justice remain unrealized, but not because they are impossible to achieve.
"It is easier to celebrate King as a civil rights leader, because that was the easier part of his vision to realize," Carson said. "The southern Jim Crow system was a regional anachronism rather than a national problem - the gulf between rich and poor - that we still prefer to ignore."
The Poor People’s Campaign reached out to poor whites, many of whom felt most threatened by the civil rights movement’s successes in black equality, as well as impoverished migrant farm workers who harvested the nation’s food and Native Americans who languished on reservations. Injustice anywhere, King said, was a threat to justice everywhere.
In a speech in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, less than a month before his assassination, King spoke of unemployment statistics that belied the long-term unemployment in the black community. But he made clear that employment was not turning out to be a ticket out of poverty. He made the same point in a number of similar speeches in the months before and after.
"The problem of unemployment is not the only problem," King said. "There is a problem of underemployment, and there are thousands and thousands, I would say millions of people in the Negro community who are poverty-stricken – not because they are not working, but because they receive wages so low that they cannot begin to function in the main stream of the economic life of our nation. Most of the poverty-stricken people of America are persons who are working every day, and they end up getting part-time wages for full-time work."
King died before the Poor People's Campaign could form a list of specific goals. But he planned for a march of 2,000 people from across the country to convene in Washington, D.C., meet with officials and demand jobs, fair wages, better education and unemployment benefits.
In May 1968, organizers built a tent city in D.C. and won some minor concessions from the federal government, such as promises that poor people would be allowed leadership roles in the programs aimed at helping them. Although the campaign carried on with help from King's deputies, it faltered without his leadership.
At the time of his death, King was pushing an idea that might be considered among his most radical: Not only should poverty be eradicated, he argued, but everyone should be guaranteed an income that would prevent them from falling into poverty.
Recently released statistics indicate that decades later, the underemployment and poverty King fought might be just as entrenched.
What would King have to say about it?
"Like racism, the problems associated with poverty are like weeds that will spread when left ignored," said Carson, who has spent most of his professional life studying King’s writings and speeches. "He would remind us that poverty and economic inequities threaten the future of American democracy."
There are X jobs and X + 15 million people. Even if every man and woman in the country has a PHd .... 15 million people still do not have a job. Those that propose death for 15 million people better hope that their card does not come up in the lottery because as much as one would like to think one is in charge of ones life .... you really have no control!
MLK also orated "Right to work is Right to poverty"
Wow, some of you people are crazy. So because SOME people on welfare take advantage of the system, everyone should be punished? What about someone who is physically unable to work? How do you suggest they support themselves if welfare programs are diminished or taken away? News flash: not all poor people take advantage of the system. Despite your limited experiences, some people NEED it. It doesn't make life easier for the majority of these people, either. It just makes it livable. Everyone on here who is judging the poor should look at themselves first and foremost. If you were in that situation, what would you do? If you couldn't feed your family or even yourself, you wouldn't take advantage of help? Some of these people are WORKING poor, like myself. I'm not on welfare, but I don't mock or judge those who are.
I would say the vast majority on the welfare system need it ....... and very very few are "taking advantage" of anything!
Well, thankfully, Race-Bait Day is nearly over. Sadly, CNN will milk this for at least the rest of the week.
WHO exactly "celebrated" MLK Day? No one I know of, even the blacks in town were pretty much oblivious to it, though one woman was wearing her best "mamie" slave-headscarf at the hospital ER last night. Some people are just strange.
My problem with MLK's idea of a "guaranteed income" is that it really is paying people to accomplish nothing. All govenrment expenditures should be aimed to accomplish something. Even, for a bad example, constructing a "bridge to nowhere" gets people out of bed to a job, has them exercise a skill of some sort, enables them to work socially with others and gives a sense of accomplishment. A so-called guaranteed income, one of MLK's few bad ideas, is the worst sort of boondoggle.
Many of FDR's policies gave people jobs to lift them out of poverty, and that was the kind of think that I think MLK wanted. Many think that WWII ended the depression; no, as we've seen with the war in Iraq, war causes recession. It was the long-term jobs that slowly lifted the country out of depression. This is still a solution: but with so many bridges falling apart, and so much infrastructure needed, I would say that it wouldn't be a bridge to nowhere, but a bridge to the future that can and must be built.
MLK explicitly advocated a guranteed income, in his l;ast book "Where Do We Go From Here," That is, income without work. I attach what I think is a fair extract below & encourage you to verify this. He wrote:
"... the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income. ... Earlier in this century this proposal would have been greeted with ridicule and denunciation as destructive of initiative and responsibility. ... We also know that no matter how dynamically the economy develops and expands it does not eliminate all poverty. ... We have come to the point where we must make the nonproducer a consumer or we will find ourselves drowning in a sea of consumer goods. We have so energetically mastered production that we now must give attention to distribution. " Thank you for your response.
You propose starvation and death to those that can not work? Should we kill grandma?
Not at all. The current welfare system, flawed though it may be, attempts to provide for those who are actually needy. The "guaranteed income" MLK described is guaranteed regardless of need. There is no requirement that the person demontrate a need for it.
There are X jobs and X+15 million people. Even if everyone has a PHd ... 15 million people still do not have a job! Whether the person is good or bad 15 million people will not have a job!
You have hit on an important fact that most politicians cannot grasp. Simply pushing more people into college will not improve anyhting, although many imagine it will. If the country needs X new grad accountants out of college, and we produce X + 10,000 new grad accountants, then we will have 10,000 would-be accountants who are unemployed as accountants, and under employed in some other capacity when they find work. Further, with a surplus of accounatnt job candidates, employers will be able to offer lower salaries over time. There is NO shortage of workers in the job market. Those who claim otherwise are lying.
Since the 1960s we have transferred over $16 Trillion to the poor and low income through means tested giveaway programs. We have over 70 such programs. We now have a huge poverty problem and are $15 Trillion in debt. I guess that didn't work out very well.
Maybe we should try giving away another $16 Trillion. Maybe it will work the second time around.
Well I live in America where they have transferred more than 16 trillion US dollars from the working people to the wealthy. In my country the rich pay a lower percentage of their income in taxes than do the working people. In 2008 the investment banks that manage the money of the wealthy received 2 trillion USD from the government in one day. What country are you from?
That is a lie. Don't be a sheep to the left and believe those lies that Obama spreads.
There are well over 200k people who file every year and pay on average 29.1% in federal taxes. Roughly about 1400 a year pay ZERO in federal taxes around 1%.
To put that in perspective on average people who make between 50-75k pay around 15%.
The rich are paying WAY more then their fair share.
Do some research on your own before you blindly believe their lies.
That 200k + are people who make over 1 million btw.
All those people who say "do some research" must not be paying taxes, because every year when I do my taxes and itemize deduction, I can see exactly how much I pay. The middle class pays the most. The rich pay much less; they do not have earned "income" but capital gains, which are taxed at a much lower rate. And they incorporate themselves, so they pay an even lower corporate tax. There are so many loopholes they use, that many pay nothing at all. The rich do not use either the "short form" or "long form" book that the rest of us use, but giant publications that have more loopholes than you can believe. These are all hidden giveaways. Oil well subsidies anyone? How about mine depreciation?
Warren Buffet said that not Obama. Ian are you suggesting that Warren Buffet doesn't know anything about wealth? He disagrees with you, so he must be just a mindless sheep. If you would consider a balanced approach to your research, you might find some inconsistencies in your ideology. And stop driving people away from the GOP with that moronic Glen Beck language.
You may be right about the 16 Trillion dollars being spent but I would like to think that some of that money was used to ease suffering for a family that needed it. If you are asking the question, has the 16 Trillion dollars spent eliminated poverty? Of course the answer is no. Has the 16 trillion dollars spent created a Social safety net for low income families that has enabled them to feed their families, provide shelter and heat their homes during the winter? Yes , it has. I agree that not all social programs work and we should always be willing to kill off those programs that aren't but I wouldn't be for eliminating the social safety net entirely. We will never be able to end Poverty but we can improve the standard of living for our poor and to me, that is money well spent. We might have spent 16 trillion on the poor but we have spent far more on useless Defense weapons systems and bases, and this is coming from a combat veteran of the Iraq War. It is very hard to measure success when fighting poverty but the battle is worth fighting!
If King was the only person Blacks have to look up to they REALLY need to re-access they're values. King was nothing but a black Pat Robertson..............playing god at the expense of everyone who followed him.
1. You weren't there, and you are just buying the sound bites in some very biased books. Or,
2. You were there and you were doing everything in your power to prevent poor people from having enough food and shelter, and you are probably still doing that.
He was a "doctor" because he had a PHD in starting riots everywhere he went!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Nonviolence everywhere. People, do some reading.
America, take a look at Mexico because that is your future – the well-off living in gated communities with personal armed guards to protect them, and just as self-righteous and about the poor deserving their station in life. That, and the drug war induced violence is already starting in America. Those of you behind the gated walls, may God protect you when the peasants revolt!
Mexico also has more kidnappings of rich children. I would hate for us to be that way, but we're trying as hard as we can to make it happen.
Dr. King was an amazing man, even ahead of his time. He lived and died for what he believed in. We can only imagine how many tried to pay him off, but he couldn't be bought. He fought for the civil rights of all the people, even those who didn't understand his message.
And don't forget to mention that he was also a master at creating riots everywhere he went – or did you conveniently forget that?
no, whites started the riots, and there are more whites on welfare than blacks...little dick white man
Dr. King advocated passive resistance, not violence. When and where did he "create riots"? As far as I know there has never been a single accusation that Dr King was violent in any way. He knew that would have destroyed the Civil Rights movement. At least try to keep an open mind.
MLK jr. has become a saint in our civil religion, sadly. His ideas transcend nationalism and patriotism. He is a critic of American policy, economics, and ideas. MLK jr. is a Christian version of the previous era's secular revolutionaries, including, guess who, Karl Marx. I don't think that is a bad thing. Read Marx's works, they make a lot of sense in our day in age (everyone who is about to ridicule me has actually never read Marx).
I have read some of Carl Marx's books. For the most part he makes sense. The problem is while it seems good on paper almost every government that has tried to impliment his ideas has collapsed.
takle poverty here first. Those well choreographed PR shows complete with light, cameras and actions for the 3rd world countries are not only a slap to the poor here, but also spell FAKE FAKE FAKE!!!!!
children dont cost money, greed cost money. 100 years ago dirt poor families had 8 children, didnt seem to break them....
Yes but 100 years ago there wasn't a public school system. All of those 8 children worked as soon as they could walk. Not discounting your point, just expanding the picture.
100 years ago people didn't breed like rats, so they didn't NEED a public school system. Small schools worked just fine for them and the kids learned twice as much as they do now.
Here's a clever idea. If two people are only make $22K, they shouldn't be having ANY children, let alone two. Children cost money, a concept poor people haven't really grasped in, actually, never.
Ok, so you are saying that the poor should not be allowed to have children? Really?
That's exactly what they're saying and they're right. If you can barely afford to pay for yourself you have no business having children. Only complete morons, losers and lowlifes think otherwise.
Shawn Davis............why should they? They can't afford them.
Did anyone see the weird article on MLK's "I Have A Dream" speech original draft?
This is the beginning of the spin. MLK will be co-opted by every left wing agenda over time. Eventually he will be cited in his concerns over transgender discrimination.
goverments keep people in poverty by design, no matter the race.
No. Different governments control different aspects of the economy. Socialism controls production. Communism controls consumption. Capitalism allows the market, through each individual to control his or her own production and consumption. Freedom requires no government control of the means of production or the consumption. Capitalism = Freedom.
I'll bet Government cheese is a Libertarian. They are always filled with ridiculous statistics that are completely wrong.
It is incrediable how politicians can put ideas in peoples head and those people cling to the ideas and refuse to let go.
In honor of MLK Day I thought this video updating the current struggle in 2012 was really interesting:
Poverty sucks. It should be illegal. Why can't the rich do more for the poor? Answer me that!
There it is, always demanding someone else do it instead of getting educated and having a good work ethic.
Are you kidding me? It is NOT my job to do for you, it is YOUR job to do for yourself. I worked hard in school and work hard in my job. From that, I am one of the 48% of the population that is forced to pay taxes that benefit the poor. The ObamaCare Health program is costing me more money and when I am overcharged for medical services, it is to make up for those of you whom do not pay your share. DO FOR YOURSELF!
what is your problem?why have you chosen to pay taxes? Don't pay....
Acts of racism should be condemned.We all the Same....AmeriKKKa
Get off your your ass and make something of yourself, you pathetic sack of crap.
Would you like me to wipe your ass and feed you too? Loser
There is indeed poverty in America and we should address that before a dime leaves this country to fight poverty in another
If anyone asks yet again, why the OCCUPIERS all over the United States are protesting. Listen up!
“You control our world. You've poisoned the air we breathe, contaminated the water we drink, and copyrighted the food we eat. We fight in your wars, die for your causes, and sacrifice our freedoms to protect you. You've liquidated our savings, destroyed our middle class, and used our tax dollars to bailout your unending greed. We are slaves to your corporations, zombies to your airwaves, servants... to your decadence. You've stolen our elections, assassinated our leaders, and abolished our basic human rights as human beings. You own our property, shipped away our jobs, and shredded our unions. You've profited off of disaster, destabilized our currencies, and raised our cost of living(while lowering our wages). You've monopolized our freedom, stripped away our education, and have almost extinguished our flame. We are hit...we are bleeding... but we ain't got time to bleed. We will bring the giants to their knees and you will witness our revolution! WAKE UP AMERICA! SUPPORT OCCUPY!
You can't blame the upper-class for all of the world's problems.
Sure they can. They do it every day and why not its easier than actually working or trying.
Your premise is that they are in control. Corportations and PAC's don't vote. People do. We get the government we deserve, that is the truth for everyone on the planet. If you don't show up for the process you can't complain. If you say the process is broken–then you don't understand the power of the people, read more Ghandi.
Dr. King...on poverty
Dr. King...on gays
Dr. King...on equal rights
Dr. King...on a stiff right upper cross
Dr. King...on how to do the neighbors wife
Dr. King...on who knows what else?
Fighting poverty is easy because it is useless, fighting rich is much harder and therefore useless. There are no results anyway, because it boils down to the individiual initiative and the conscious choice whether one wants to be rich or whether one wants to be poor. No one can fight for or against one's poverty.
Interesting how a CNN article about our pathetic congress is closely monitored/moderated, but when CNN posts an article about a civil right's leader, it isn't monitored/moderated. (It doesn't even let one post a "like" on others comments!) CNN is nothing but censorship/propaganda. I knew this would happen once Ted Turner lost his stomach and sold out!
Nonsense. Work tyour fingers to the bone what do you get? Bony fingers. Great song.
Yeah, some poeple are dumb and just don't realize it.!
Have African Americans honored the struggles of the previous generations? Do African American families teach their children to respect themselves and others? When will African Americans understand that education, values and hard work will lead to success?
I have honored my parents & previous African Americans who died in our struggle by getting good grades in school, going & getting a college degree, having a 15year career, so far, taking care of my family & child owning a home & becoming a productive tax paying member of society, so yes, many of us black folk have honored King & those who have come before us, & instilling these values in our kids.
I hope you can influence many by your example. Thank you!
Get off the African American" crap.. You're B-L-A-C-K. unless you came from Africa you're as "African American" as George Bush...............so save the African American crap.
My relatives came from England, Ireland and Germany, but I don't prance around saying I'm an ENGLISH/IRISH/GERMAN/AMERICAN.
Oprah Winfrey is a better roll model to BLACK people than that riot-causing King.
There are far more African Americans "honoring" these struggles than you believe. My parents are celebrating 40 years of marriage this year, have one eldest son married with four kids (2 that are not even his) and two younger sons, myself included, on the way to law school while ourselves never doing drugs or having any kind of trouble with the law. Please do not discount our existence just because of the idiots in mass media that tell you successful, grounded African Americans with education and above average values don't exist. We do!
Spend some time in the schools, talk to teachers, observe what really goes on and how the behavior of so many African Americans and the lack of parenting in their homes is responsible for the so called "achievement gap". I think it is shameful and a disgrace to those who fought for the right to education.
POVERTY IS NOT JUST A CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE BUT A HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE
Is that supposed to be a complete sentence?
That's what I was thinking. There are millions upon millions of white Americans living in poverty just like blacks. I guess just like a hate crime can only be against blacks now only blacks live in poverty.
The escalating HS dropout rate, now sitting at just over one-third overall and around 44% for minorities, will mean poverty rates will get much worse. As usual in a welfare state like the US, the incentive to get educated and work comes from within the motivated and prideful individual as taught by parents. This is dying in the US.
Poverty is not caused by racism. It is caused by Welfare. In 1964 before welfare was born, black wages were right under white wages. Welfare promoted the destruction of the black family. Women were paid to have babies out of wedlock. Only 30% of black families enjoy two parents. Since 1964 black wages have dropped dramatically compared to that of the white counterpart. Clinton reformed welfare to have a 5 year maximum. Soon after Obama took office he reversed Clinton's mandate. Poverty is not caused by racism but welfare. Knowing this, one wonders why Obama reversed Clinton's decision to keep blacks poor and dependent on the government.
I assure you welfare programs had nothing to do with the decline in wages of black families. Also, where did you get the misleading idea that in 1964 the wages of African Americans were just beneath Whites. There has always been a large gap, never has it been close. The decline actually took place because of the removal and relocation of factories within the inner cities. Not to mention "psuedo discrimination" in the job markets added to that decline. As a matter of fact the average working class citezen wage declined after 1964. The impact was more severe for African Americans. Men who had those jobs had no way to support their families. If you have a margin of era on the statistics you looked at I would love for you to share with the rest of us. I agree that poverty is not cause by racism, but it was one of the leading factors.
I learned this from a graduate "Economics of Discrimination" course taught by a black doctorate. I can't fit the charts into this box, so you may need to do some reading on your own. In 1964 black wages were just below whites. Since welfare, black wages dropped dramatically. Black women quit jobs to get a welfare check from the government. The more kids she had, the welfare checks increased. If she got married, then she would be penalized. Since the EEOC's inception in 1965, discrimination in the workplace has almost disappeared. The EEOC regularly sends its employees to check on Human Resource's hiring practices. A certain number of minorities have to been employed in areas throughout the company. HR directors have to keep notes on every minority that was declined a job and for what reason. If minority allots were mot maintained, harsh penalties would be imposed on the company. Companies took that seriously. Even though black college students get accepted to college (per capita) as whites, their graduation rates are only at 42%. Even though hurting blacks by imposing welfare laws, the EEOC has maintained an almost end to discrimination in hiring practices. Racism is almost a non factor in the business world. The real factors are self imposed poverty from welfare recipients that caused the destruction of the black family, leading to a decline in support for children that lowered the wages for blacks in general.
So when they were handing out brains, YOU thought they said "rains" and said : "No thanks, I don't like the rain"?
Wow, government cheese. It must hurt to be as dumb as you.
Yes because you had a brilliant response Debbie. Government cheese is actually correct if you bothered to actually look something up.
Really Debbie. All you have to say is a crappy one-liner when the guy just explained his credible information? Please have at least a GED before you respond. Since government programs began, its taken the "want to" out of most people who get their bills paid by American Taxpayers. Thats right, I pay so someone else can be lazy when that money should be going to my children's future. Poverty is an issue but it needs to be addressed by each individual and not the government.
And you are even dumber.
That is all total bullsh.t, cheese.
You are a liar using fake statistics. Poverty is not caused by welfare. How do you explain the thousands of years of poverty throughout history BEFORE welfare even got started?
You are so full of crap.
That argument is completely invalid. Yes there were poverty at other times because of different causes. There isn't one sole cause for poverty, but Welfare did contribute to the decline in 1964.
If you ever took an economics class, this is fact is a large part of the issue with poverty. The welfare system leads to generations of welfare recipients. For each baby they birth, it leads to 4 more years of food, children care, and home expenses paid. It is a cycle. Welfare should be for a four year term and birth control should be mandated. It should also be a one cycle term. I know this for a fact because we dealt with a neighbor whose daughter had a baby. The daughter thought it was great that Medicaid paid for the birth and then WIC gave her rent and food. SHe thought it was so great, she had another baby on the taxpayers. I was totally disgusted while this girl was out partying and taking money from the government.
YOU'RE full of crap. Welfare promotes poverty because it enables the lazy, so they don't have to LOOK for work.
Show me ONE welfare rat who's looking for work.
Absolutely, when you have no self respect, don't expect everyone to cater to you.
With modern DNA testing, marriage should no longer dictate welfare status. Every baby has a father, he may not be acting like one, providing income for his children, or involved beyond a sprem donor, but he can be held accountable.
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