Power to the Poor
Black-Brown Coalition and the Fight for Economic Justice, 1960-1974
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: The University of North Carolina Press
Series: Justice, Power, and Politics
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes
Abbreviations in the Text
As Reies López Tijerina stepped to the podium in a small but ornate room at Chicago’s Palmer House hotel, the charismatic Chicano leader exuded both a supreme confidence and a genuine urgency about the state of his people in the fall of 1967. “The black man is marching in the streets,” Tijerina told a mix of supporters...
1. The “Rediscovery” of Poverty
“Poverty can now be abolished. How long shall we ignore this underdeveloped nation in our midst? How long shall we look the other way while our fellow human beings suffer? How long?”1 These words from The Other America, written by Michael Harrington in 1962, became one of the era’s most...
2. First Experiments
Soon after his union won a breakthrough contract in 1966, Cesar Chavez received a telegram from Martin Luther King Jr. lauding Chavez’s victory through perseverance. “Our separate struggles are really one—a struggle for freedom, for dignity and for humanity,” wrote King. “You and your valiant fellow workers have demonstrated...
3. War, Power, and the New Politics
As the United Farm Workers celebrated its first triumphs over California grape growers, other activists dreamed of a much larger victory in national politics. Championing what it called the “new politics,” a cadre of mostly white, male organizers from the anti–Vietnam War movement began laying...
4. Poverty, Peace, and King’s Challenge
On December 4, 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. formally announced SCLC’s much-anticipated program of mass civil disobedience for the upcoming election year. The Poor People’s Campaign aimed to dramatize poverty in the United States, by leading “waves of the nation’s poor and disinherited to Washington...
5. Race and Resurrection City
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. returned to Memphis on April 3 triumphantly, delivering the powerful and soulful “Mountaintop” speech in which he seemed to predict his own death. Less than twenty-four hours later, stunning the nation and the world, an assassin’s bullets martyred the civil rights...
6. Multiracial Efforts, Intra-racial Gains
On May 29, symbolism of a different sort played out in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building. After a boisterous demonstration against a recent ruling on American Indian fishing rights, hundreds of protesters had begun to trek back to the Hawthorne School, when local police officers attacked. Prompted...
7. The Limits of Coalition
Gilberto Ballejos returned to Albuquerque in July 1968 inspired and ready to build local bases of power. “A lot of nice things, humorous things, enlightening things occurred” in Washington, Ballejos recalled. Alianza members, young and old, “came back and were very different, and better for it. People I still talk...
8. Making the 1970s
Bobby Lee was about to leave an Uptown Chicago hall full of white Appalachian migrants in late 1968, when the Black Panther leader suddenly jumped on a chair. “Black power to black people,” he declared to the stunned audience. And after a pause, he continued, “and white power to white people...
Epilogue: Poverty, Coalition, and Identity Politics
The Gary and El Paso conventions became potent symbols of what later would be called the era’s “identity politics.” First coined by black feminists in the Combahee River Collective in 1977, the term most often referred to the racial and cultural politics of African Americans. “Focusing on our own oppression...
As a onetime journalist, I know a project often starts with a seemingly innocuous question about the world around us. The genesis of this one came as I wondered why the attempts at interracial and multiracial coalition building that I first witnessed and then joined in my current hometown of Durham...