National Civil Rights Museum debuts Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition on the history of the Poor People’s Campaign

Museum launches a national tour of ‘Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People’s Campaign’ on May 14

Memphis, Tennessee, UNITED STATES


Memphis, TN, May 02, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The National Civil Rights Museum, a Smithsonian Affiliate, will launch the national tour of the Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People’s Campaign exhibition on May 14. The Smithsonian exhibition explores the little-known history of the multicultural movement to address poverty and social justice in the nation. The Poor People’s Campaign was the final initiative led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Leadership Conference (SCLC) before he was killed at the Lorraine Motel, which now is the site of the Museum.

In the 1960s, as the United States emerged as a global model of wealth and democracy, an estimated 25 million Americans lived in poverty. From the elderly and underemployed to children and persons with disabilities, poverty affected people of every race, age, and religion. In response, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by King and Ralph Abernathy, organized the Poor People’s Campaign as a national human rights crusade. 

Pledging to continue the fight for civil and human rights after King’s death, Coretta Scott King and the SCLC leadership of the Poor People’s Campaign held a memorial service to unveil a commemorative plaque for King at the Lorraine Motel on May 2, 1968.  The plaque remains at the museum today. A poster for the campaign was taped to the railing of the motel balcony as the leaders announced they would continue the fight for civil rights, especially the debilitating poverty. The group symbolically led the first steps of the King-inspired Poor People’s March to Washington. 

“We are incredibly honored to host the exhibition Solidarity Now!  In February 1968 Dr. King and his team used the motel’s conference room to plan the upcoming campaign,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, the museum’s Director of Interpretation, Collections, and Education. “It is fitting that this exhibition tour begins here at the Lorraine Motel where the decision to the continue the campaign was announced by Coretta Scott King and Abernathy on May 2, 1968.”

As a multiethnic movement that included African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Asians, and poor whites from Appalachia and rural communities, the six-week protest community in Washington attracted demonstrators nationwide. The campaign leaders presented demands to Congress, including demands for jobs, living wages, and access to land, capital, and health care. It was the first large-scale, nationally organized demonstration after King’s death.

The exhibition title is a reference to the Solidarity Day Rally held June 19, 1968, as a major highlight and capstone for the movement. The rally at the Lincoln Memorial featured speeches by celebrities, activists, and campaign organizers as a continuation of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. 

Solidarity Now! features photographs, oral histories of campaign participants and organizers, and an array of protest signs, political buttons, and audio field recordings collected during the campaign. The exhibition explores the significance of the tactics and impact of this campaign that drew thousands of people to build a protest community on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For nearly six weeks they inhabited “a city of hope” on 15 acres between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial to call the nation’s attention to the crippling effects of poverty for millions of Americans. The protest site was called Resurrection City.

Through a 3D map of Resurrection City, visitors can examine the planned spaces for housing, a cultural center, city hall, theater stage, and essential services, including facilities for food and dining, sanitation, communications, education, medical and dental care, and childcare.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Solidarity Now! will be on view at the National Civil Rights Museum until July 31 before continuing a 10-city national tour.

The exhibition is supported by the CVS Health Foundation, a private foundation created by CVS Health to help people live healthier lives.  It is included with museum admission. For more information, visit civilrightsmuseum.org.

 

About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 student visits annually. The Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement and tell the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights.  It educates and serves as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.  

The Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.

 

About Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES)

SITES and Smithsonian Affiliations are critical national outreach units at the Smithsonian Institution. For more than 65 years, SITES has been connecting Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibitions about art, science and history. Smithsonian Affiliations establishes and maintains the Smithsonian’s long-term partnerships with museums, educational organizations and cultural institutions in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Panama. Together, SITES and Affiliations share the Smithsonian's vast resources with millions of people outside Washington, D.C. Visit http://sites.si.edu and https://affiliations.si.edu/ for more information.

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture

Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., has welcomed more than 7 million visitors. The nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit nmaahc.si.edu

 

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