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"We Have Come to Cash a Check”


At the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of the nation’s founding promise of equal rights and opportunity: “It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’” Five years later, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference launched a nationwide antipoverty movement to demand an Economic Bill of Rights for every citizen. Culminating with a massive live-in demonstration in Washington, D.C., the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign reflected King’s vision of economic justice as fundamental to the struggle for racial justice.