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New exhibition at Freedom Center showcases 1968 campaign against poverty

CINCINNATI – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most ambitious dream drew thousands to the National Mall in Washington, DC. It sparked a six-week protest and camp along the edge of the Reflecting Pool and implored leaders to take action on the growing divide in America. It united people across races, ethnicities and regions. It demanded an end to poverty.

The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is illuminating the often-overlooked history of the multicultural movement to confront poverty that redefined social justice and activism in America. Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, opens Thursday at the Freedom Center.

In the 1960s, the United States emerged as a global model of wealth and democracy, an estimated 25 million Americans lived in poverty – nearly 13% of the population. From the elderly and underemployed to children and persons with disabilities, poverty affected people of every race, age and religion. In response, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by Dr. King, and Rev. Ralph Abernathy, organized the Poor People’s Campaign as a national human rights crusade. Solidarity Now! features photographs, oral histories with campaign participants and organizer and an array of protest signs, political buttons and audio field recordings collected during the campaign.

“The civil rights movement of Dr. King is often thought of as a movement about race, but it was more. It was a movement about equity, about freedom – including freedom from hunger and want – for all people,” said Woodrow Keown, Jr. president and COO of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. “We’re proud to present Solidarity Now! to our community so we can show that equity was never about just some of us, but about all of us.”

Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People’s Campaign will be open March 30 through June 19, 2023 at the Freedom Center – Smithsonian Affiliations institution. The exhibition is included with admission. For more information, visit