(1968, 2003) Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was delivering a sermon in Clarksdale in late 1967 when he was told that he needed to see the economic ruin of African-Americans in Marks, Mississippi (Quitman County). Upon arrival, Dr. King wept.
Dr. King’s experience in Marks would lead him to hatch the Poor People’s Campaign. King considered this the second phase of the civil rights agenda. After witnessing the shambles of African-Americans on Main Street in Marks, he wanted to press the national government for greater economic rights for the poor so that they would no longer be forced to live in the squalor that dominated Marks and Quitman County. He proposed a massive march on Washington D.C. by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Unfortunately, Dr. Kingg would not live to see it implemented. But, in 1968, shortly after King’s assassination, the Conference put the plan into action. From Marks, a train of mule wagons departed for DC. The march ultimately failed without King to lead it, but it was not forgotten.
In August of 2003, a group of activists set out from Marks again, marching east on Highway 6 towards Batesville. They called themselves the Poor People’s March for Economic Human Rights. Like Dr. King, they felt that the government was ignoring the poor and decided to march to Washington to prove the point. In honor of Dr. King’s failed march in 1968, they started in Marks.