Interview with Marian Wright Edelman
QUESTION 14
HENRY HAMPTON:

OK, so bring us the intro that gets you into where you're going to hear about this argument and what happened.

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN:

Well, the good thing about Bobby Kennedy is he was tenacious too. I mean once he got into a problem and saw it and understood it, you know, what it meant in terms of child suffering, he wouldn't let it go. And he began to get frustrated but continued to push in trying to get the Agriculture Department and the Johnson Administration to respond to poverty. I was frustrated because I could see on a day to day basis the continuing suffering that was going on. By this time the Vietnam War had started and the country was being diverted away from the problems of poverty and, and hunger. Dr. King was getting frustrated because the movement had moved north, ah, and once things, hit one's own neighborhood, things began to, to be more difficult. So I saw him a lot and he became a friend. And we were always plotting on how could we keep trying to get the country to respond to the poor children and, and, and to the, to the growing hunger problem, which was a national problem. It wasn't just limited to Mississippi. And one day, ah, when I was up in Washington, ah, from Mississippi, ah, doing a number of things, ah. I went out to Hickory Hill, ah, with my husband Peter who was his legislative assistant at the time. And I remember sitting around the pool, ah, and I was about to leave Washington. He was sitting there lounging and he asked me where I was going and why I was going back home. And I said, I was going back to Jackson but I was going to stop by Atlanta and see Dr. King. And, ah, because he was kind of down. He was trying to figure out what he wanted to do next and how we could get the country to deal with the economic problems we were all facing and with the diversion of attention to the Vietnam War, and he said to tell them to, to bring the poor people to Washington. You know, tell him that because we, because we got to somehow have something that was, was able to focus the consciousness of the country and that you wouldn't get him to do that unless there was some visible demonstration. And I said I would, and I said bye and got on the plane and went down to see Martin, ah, who was real depressed at the time, ah, went into his little office. I went back to visit it recently, I mean very modest office and he was really sitting there trying to figure out what in the world he was going to do next. And I told him that Bobby Kennedy said he ought to come to Washington. And, ah, you know, I felt, he treated me as if I were an angel delivering a message, ah, and he immediately understood that it was right. And, ah, we chatted a bit about how it would be done but there was never any discussion about whether that was the right thing to do**, ah, and, ah, I was glad I could bring a little bit relief. I mean that discussion went on and then I took my plane on to Mississippi and the planning for the Poor People's Campaign ensued, ah, and you know, we know what the rest was.