In the shadow of the nation’s memorial to Abraham Lincoln, a makeshift city took shape last month. The announced resident requirement was enslavement to poverty, the announced aim emancipation by the government. Plywood-plastic shacks housed some 3,000 persons, mostly Negroes, in Resurrection City. Among them was temporary “mayor” Ralph David Abernathy, the clergyman who inherited from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., not only the top position in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference but also the job of administering the Poor People’s Campaign in Washington (see story following).
Campaigners coming from all parts of the country leaned heavily on volunteers and donations from churches, many of which quickly made clear that aid was not necessarily endorsement.
Among evangelicals, response seemed left almost entirely to individual discretion. The National Association of Evangelicals made no official comment on the campaign. The Greater Washington Association of Evangelicals recommended prayer as well as material expression of Christian love. Some member churches donated food but did not offer facilities.
At New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Lincoln worshiped, one room became an SCLC information center where volunteers were directed to needs and a television reporter worked on his network’s newscasts.
The National Council of Churches’ Department of Social Justice moved to Washington for the campaign, bringing staff members from around the country. Its purpose was to coordinate national religious leadership and provide liaison.
Some church groups, such as the Topeka (Kansas) Church Council, dissatisfied with local coverage, sent representatives for on-the-spot reporting. Father James E. Groppi, Milwaukee civil-rights activist, ...1
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