“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problems until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power… this means a revolution of values… "
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,“To Charter Our Course for the Future,” May 22, 1967
Children in D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood cheer Dr. King (1967) by Washington Star Collection © Washington PostDC Public Library
Children in D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood cheer Dr. King, 1967
D.C. activists and Dr. King fought for the same things. The lack of freedom for Black people, particularly in the capital of the “free” world, pushed them to act.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Washington National Cathedral (March 31, 1968) by Washington Star Collection © Washington PostDC Public Library
Dr. King delivering his last sermon in D.C., March 31, 1968
By the late 1960s, Dr. King, like many, was outraged by the unjust conditions that Black people faced in the United States. He called for a “guaranteed national income,” and billions of dollars to help poor people improve their lives.
Front Page of The Washington Post (1968-04-01) by Local Newspaper DatabasesDC Public Library
Front page of the Washington Post, April 1, 1968
Just five days before his assassination on April 4, 1968, Dr. King delivered his last easter sermon at the Washington National Cathedral. He announced plans for a massive anti-poverty demonstration—the Poor People’s Campaign.
"There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will."
—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution,“ Washington National Cathedral, March 31, 1968
D.C. Demands Justice
Dr. King’s message was nothing new for Washington, D.C. activists.
In the 1960s, local organizers continued to demand freedom from violence and access to better jobs and housing.
“It’s very difficult to talk to a man about his right to vote when the plaster is falling off his wall, or he doesn’t have any food, or his kids are hungry.”
—Marion Barry, in a memorandum to a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) workshop, 1966
Marion Barry, Rufus Mayfield, and Carroll Harvey at a Pride, Inc. press conference (1967) by Washington Star Collection © Washington PostDC Public Library
In the summer of 1967, concerns about urban poverty and civil unrest were at a peak. Future D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and fellow activists Mary Treadwell, Carroll Harvey, and Rufus "Catfish" Mayfield secured federal funds from the Department of Labor to pilot a new program.
Clipping from the Washington Star Newspaper (November 26, 1967) by Washington Star Collection © Washington PostDC Public Library
Ebony magazine article (1967-12-01) by Vertical Files, Washingtoniana DivisionDC Public Library
Pride, Inc. in the news
As seen in this Ebony article, Pride drew attention for its fresh approach to tackling urban problems. Pride was just one example of how activists created new Black-led organizations to improve conditions at a time when D.C. was fully controlled by the federal government.
Julius Hobson: Research and Destroy!
Known as "D.C.'s angriest man," Julius Hobson was an activist, economist, and World War II veteran who took action to demand fully-funded schools, good jobs, and decent housing.
“Sure I’m angry, but not filled with rage. Rage is born out of frustration and the failure to deal with problems. Anger carries direction, planning, and determination. You can just say I’m angry.”
—Julius Hobson, interviewed in Ebony Magazine, May 1965
March for Freedom Now outside the District Building (June 14, 1963) by Washington Star Collection © Washington PostDC Public Library
March for Freedom Now, 1963
This march against job bias and housing discrimination was one of many protests Hobson organized as Chairperson of the Congress of Racial Equality’s (CORE)'s D.C. chapter. He also ran more than 80 picket lines downtown, demanding that stores hire and promote Black workers.
After leading the Congress of Racial Equality’s (CORE) D.C. chapter for three years, Hobson founded a more militant organization called ACT (Associated Community Teams) to combat racism. He was later elected to the D.C. Board of Education and to the D.C. Council.
The Damned Children: A layman’s guide to forcing change in public education (August 1970) by Julius Hobson PapersDC Public Library
The Damned Children, 1970
Attention-grabbing titles and graphics, along with well-researched analyses of unequal conditions, were key to Hobson’s publications.
The Damned Children (title page) (August 1967) by Julius Hobson PapersDC Public Library
Title page from The Damned Children, 1970
Published by Hobson's group, Washington Institute for Quality Education (WIQE), this book was "first in a series of publications about THE DAMNED in our society."
The Damned Children (School Board) (August 1970) by Julius Hobson PapersDC Public Library
Hobson pointed out that, in 1970, when this book was published, the Black-majority city still had a white-majority school board. Prior to becoming councilmember, Hobson was elected to the school board, in D.C.'s first local election of any kind since the 1870s.
The Damned Children (last page) (1970-08-01) by Julius Hobson PapersDC Public Library
The Damned Children (Ability Grouping) (August 1970) by Julius Hobson PapersDC Public Library
Hobson was a statistician in his day job. He used those skills to compile extensive data to prove that the DC Public Schools remained largely segregated and unequal long after the Supreme Court's 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and locally in Bolling v. Sharpe.
Installation view, A Revolution of Values (Julius Hobson) (2021-09-01) by Photograph by WorkhorseDC Public Library
A Revolution of Values is located in the West Gallery, on the fourth floor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library.
Learn more about the local activists and the issues that Dr. King cared about in the Library's new permanent exhibit, Up from the People: Protest and Change in D.C., on view at The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C.
You can also learn more in these online exhibits:
A Library Named for Dr. King
D.C. Wins Home Rule
Everybody's Got a Right to Live: The Poor People's Campaign
Marion Barry: Mayor for Life
D.C. & King: The Story Behind the Films
This exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the DC Public Library Foundation, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this exhibit do not represent the views of any funding organizations.