Interview with William Rutherford

So tell me where did the idea come from, and what did you do, what happened?


Well the idea of extending the call beyond, ah, the immediate constituency of SCLC grew out of the fact that in previous demonstrations there had been many, ah, non-Blacks who had come to participate in SCLC demonstrations, from Selma on. People arrived spontaneously, voluntarily, and so on. And I was always rather impressed by the support that SCLC and the movement had generated around the world. So at some point we raised this in the staff meeting and, ah, Dr. King said, "Well absolutely, contact as broad a cross section of people as you can and invite them to participate." And I think at the time there wasn't, ah, an anticipation that there would be a tremendous response. So we went to our friends in the, ah, Friends Service Committee, to the Chicago Tenants Union- Unit- Union and other groups like that that we knew had been active in civil rights to inform them about the, ah, Poor People's Campaign. So we sent out a call to them through a mailing, through a mailing list that we gathered over Dr. King's signature. And whereas we expected a token participation, as I said earlier, masses of people, ah, came to join us and turned out. Groups that we had never heard of, had no idea who they were or where they were from. They just began to arrive and to turn up as soon as the world got out. So not only did we put out the word to civil rights activists, to civil rights, ah, participants but to other groups, to other, ah, ethnic groups and other, ah, social, ah, groups around the country.