As the 45th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign approached, the Poverty Initiative and Poverty Scholars from across the US studied this often ignored campaign from the last years of King’s life. A New and Unsettling Force is the result of that collective inquiry, featuring chapters on the history of the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968, the role of religion and the Bible, and the importance of Art and Culture in the struggle to end poverty, along with an interview of Bertha Burris (Queen of the Mule Train) and sixteen essays submitted by those from what we call the modern day Sanitation Workers’ struggles—organizations fighting for the same basic needs and demands for which the Poor People’s Campaign fought. The book is filled with historic and contemporary photographs.
Almost all discourse about King has focused on his leadership of the Civil Rights Movement. Little has been said about his commitment to ending poverty and even less about his vision for a Poor People’s Campaign as a historic effort of the poor to unite across racial, gender, ethnic, religious, and geographic lines. This text hopes to help facilitate larger in-depth discussions and debates about this important period in history, drawing lessons that would help guide us in our work to accomplish what is most needed in this country today — the reigniting of the Poor People’s Campaign and finishing the unfinished business of Dr. King.