AFRICANGLOBE – In the twilight of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s short life, his enormous role in the Black Rights Movement eventually broadened to economic justice as he worked to organize the “Poor People’s Campaign.”
As he states in the rare 1968 footage below, after listing a slew of subsidies and handouts white people have lavished upon themselves since the United States was founded, from the land itself to the means of cultivating that land, Dr. King was organizing the Poor People’s Campaign to march to Washington. “We’re coming to get our check,” King says.
He was assassinated two months later, just weeks before what would have surely been a groundbreaking, historical event of great significance to people of every race throughout the nation. Many believe King’s assassination was due to this new economic agenda.
Former Black Panther and former wife of Eldridge Cleaver, Kathleen Cleaver, points out at the end of the above clip from Frontline’s “The Two Nations Of Black America,” “Once the Civil Rights acts were completed, that was it. Government was through with us… There has never been any interest in restructuring the economy for the benefit of the poor… Go back to Shay’s Rebellion. I mean, this is like, the no-no. You know? This is a capitalist society. It’s built on inequality and avarice in many ways.”
To get a better idea of Dr. King’s progression into thinking along the lines of economic justice, take a look at his responses in this short interview below from the previous year:
King states much of the Civil Rights movement was a demand for decency, but having accomplished so much in that regard, and with so much momentum behind himself and the movement, he felt it was time to shift into the larger economic issue that would help bring about actual equality.
Richard Rothstein reinforces the idea that white subsidies were behind American prosperity in his piece, “Public Housing: Government-Sponsored Segregation”:
“When the early New Deal first constructed public housing in New York City and elsewhere, projects for blacks were built in existing ghettos or undeveloped areas where planners wanted to shift existing black neighborhoods. But projects for whites were built in existing white neighborhoods…
By the mid-1930s the government began to lure white families out of public housing with federally insured mortgages that subsidized relocation to new single-family homes in the suburbs. With Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and then, after World War II, Veterans Administration (VA) guarantees, white middle-class families could buy suburban homes with little or no down payments and extended 30-year amortization schedules. Monthly charges were often less than rents the families had previously paid to housing authorities or private landlords.”
Furthermore, Rothstein writes that the U.S. government “had an explicit policy” to refuse home insurance to African Americans. This practice even continues to this day, as a recent lawsuit against Fifth-Third bank proves.
“Of 300 large subdivisions built from 1935 to 1947 in Queens, Nassau, and Westchester counties in New York, 83 percent had racially restrictive deeds, with preambles like ‘Whereas the Federal Housing Administration requires that the existing mortgages on the said premises be subject and subordinated to the said [racial] restrictions…’” Rothstein writes, and it gets worse.
The FHA, at one time, would even refuse mortgages to white people seeking to purchase a home in a neighborhood where an African American family lived.
Even though the Supreme Court ruled against such vile behavior in 1948, the practice continued, and likely continues.
Dr. King knew that economic freedom was necessary for democratic freedom, and that’s why he was planning to march the Poor People’s Campaign to Washington for their checks. It remains high time to level the scales.
By: Dylan Hock