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THE BIRTH OF THE POOR PEOPLE'S CAMPAIGN

A visit to a fledgling Head Start program in Marks brought home the reality of rural poverty to Dr. King and Ralph Abernathy. "We looked around the primitive schoolhouse and saw them watching us, wide-eyed and silent, having been told who we were," Abernathy recalled in his autobiography. "They seemed bright and alert, but something bothered me about them. Then I realized what it was: virtually all of them were under weight, a condition that lent a special poignancy to their enormous eyes."

After witnessing the teacher divide an apple into four pieces for four hungry children at lunchtime, Dr. King uncharacteristically broke into tears. "The tears came streaming down his cheek. And he had to leave the room." Later that evening, Dr. King told Abernathy, "I can't get those children out of my mind...We can't let that kind of poverty exist in this country. I don't think people really know that little school children are slowly starving in the United States of America. I didn't know it." Seeing these children planted these seeds for Dr. King to think about a Poor People's Campaign.

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