City of Hope poster

City of Hope: Resurrection City & the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign

September 7, 2019 - January 5, 2020; Lightcatcher 2nd Floor Hallway

City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s daring vision for economic justice and opportunity for every U.S. citizen. The poster exhibition examines the Poor People’s Campaign — a grassroots, multiracial movement that drew thousands of people to Washington, D.C. For 43 days between May and June 1968, demonstrators demanded social reforms while living side-by-side on the National Mall in a tent city known as Resurrection City.

Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, City of Hope highlights a series of photographs and an array of protest signs and political buttons collected during the campaign. Featuring 18 posters, the exhibition aims to help visitors engage and contextualize the Poor People’s Campaign’s historical significance and present-day relevance.

Although President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a “war on poverty” in 1964, tens of millions of Americans were denied livable wages, adequate housing, nutritious food, quality education, and healthcare. Led by Drs. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ralph David Abernathy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) organized the Poor People’s Campaign in response to poverty as a national human rights issue. Stretching 16 acres along the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, Resurrection City housed 3,000 protesters with structures for essential services like sanitation, communications, medical care and childcare. It included a dining tent, cultural center and a city hall along the encampment’s bustling “Main Street.”

The Poor People’s Campaign marked an important moment in U.S. history and set the stage for future social justice movements. Within months after Resurrection City’s evacuation, major strides were made toward economic equality influencing school lunch programs, rent subsidies and home ownership assistance for low-income families,

City of Hope: Resurrection City and the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign is organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Image: “Hunger’s Wall,” plywood panels from mural at Resurrection City. Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of Vincent DeForest.