Dr. King on the Roots of Economic Inequality

Dr. King on the Roots of Economic Inequality

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) planned a Poor People’s Campaign for May 1968 to demand jobs, unemployment insurance, a fair minimum wage, affordable housing, and education for poor adults and children, an Economic Bill of Rights. The effort was to involve poor people of all races from all parts of the country, urban and rural, but the historical roots of racial economic disparity could not be ignored:

“At the very same time that America refused to give the Negro any land, through an act of Congress our government was giving away millions of acres of land in the West and the Midwest, which meant that it was willing to undergird its white peasants from Europe with an economic floor.

But not only did they give the land, they built land grant colleges with government money to teach them how to farm. Not only that, they provided county agents to further their expertise in farming. Not only that, they provided low interest rates in order that they could mechanize their farms.

Not only that, today many of these people are receiving millions of dollars in federal subsidies not to farm, and they are the very people telling the black man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution,” delivered at the National Cathedral, Washington DC on March 31, 1968 (full text here).


“Four ways Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to battle inequality,” Ned Resnikoff, MSNBC

“MLK called out income inequality,” James C. Harrington, Houston Chronicle

“American Dream Deferred: Wealth of Richest 400 Equals that of Nation’s 44 Million African Americans,” David Harris-Gershon,Tikkun Daily

“For women, economic justice a civil rights issue,” Maya L. Harris,CNN

“Martin Luther King’s Case for a Guaranteed Basic Income,” Matthew Yglesias, Slate

“Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Solution to Poverty,” Jordan Weissmann, The Atlantic

“Martin Luther King Jr. Celebrations Overlook His Critiques of Capitalism and Militarism,” Zaid Jilani, The Intercept


“How the 1% profit off of racial economic inequality,” Dedrick Asante-Muhammad and Chuck Collins, Guardian


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Top image: Library of Congress.

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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