Interview with Marian Wright Edelman

You focused on one issue. What issue did you focus on and why and how?


Well, each day, though, the poor people I didn't focus--The Poor People's Campaign didn't focus just on one issue. They went to different agencies each day and a position paper had to be prepared for each of them, ah, we would go to the Justice Department and would be met by the Attorney General, ah, and Dr. Abernathy would, would read his statement that had been prepared, ah, the night before with the help of, ah, government officials like Roger Wilkins and Lisle Carter and Carl Holman and we'd craft these things in the middle of the night and get Dr. Abernathy to approve them and then the poor would joint Dr. Abernathy and we went to a different agency, ah, maybe two a day, I don't remember the logistics, the files are very old now, ah, and would make the speech and make the sets of demands. And this went on at the, at the Agriculture Department where again, hunger, at that time, I recall as being the over arching issue and which became the kind of issue of focus because of what had happened in Mississippi earlier, because more and more people were beginning to realize that hunger was a more widespread problem than other because it was such a clear-cut clarion call to decency. So that I guess I recall most the, the Agriculture Department meetings with Secretary Freeman and in discussions with the White House officials at that time, most of our focus was on trying to get a victory for the poor by getting them to respond to get the national government to get some food to them as Bobby Kennedy had, had urged them. But again it had gotten mixed in to the politics of Kennedy and Johnson at that point and so we went away, I think from Washington, ah, not only depressed about Dr. King's death but also depressed that our government had been so niggardly, ah, and political in responding to what was a clear and urgent need.