1968: 50th Anniversary

1968: 50th Anniversary

People's University

1968 was a momentous year in US history. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated. The Poor People's Campaign, which Dr. King was organizing at the time of his death, brought activists from across the nation to D.C. for Resurrection City. 1968 also brought the groundbreaking of what would become the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library and the opening of Federal City College, now part of the University of the District of Columbia.

For the 50th anniversary, the Library highlighted its role as the “people’s university” for the District of Columbia and reflected on the experiences that shaped 1968 locally and nationally through a series of programs and an online exhibition about King’s relationship with social and political movements in Washington, D.C.

This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Explore the Library’s offerings below:

Evolutions and Legacies: Martin Luther King Jr. and D.C., 1957-1972 
Curated by Derek Gray, DC Public Library Special Collections archivist, and Dr. Marya Annette McQuirter of the dc1968 project.

People’s University Seminar Series

Visiting professors with subject expertise lead lectures and discussion seminars on a variety of topics. For a list of past & upcoming seminars visit washingtoniana.eventbrite.com. Visit this page and subscribe to the Special Collections newsletter for updates.

Pop-Up Museum: Your D.C. Stories 1968–2018 
Presented in partnership with Dr. Marya McQuirter of the dc1968 project
Pop-Up Museums are one-day shows created by community members. Two Pop-Up Museums were held at Anacostia Library and Mt. Pleasant Library. Participants shared stories, yearbooks, church bulletins, posters, family photos and more highlighting themes of art, activism, music, service and everyday life in D.C., and had the opportunity to speak with archivists about preservation and learn about D.C. happenings in 1968.

Save Family Treasures
Personal archiving workshops with the dc1968 project

The Hunger Wall Poster Project

In 2018, four local activist artists —Nando Álvarez, Adrienne Gaither, Monolith and Justin Poppe —created posters for the DC Public Library addressing issues of poverty, racism, war and ecological destruction from the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign. A portable Hunger Wall mural was created by 411 Collective artists Monolith and Justin Poppe live at the DC Funk Parade and was exhibited at libraries and the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign occupation on the National Mall. Artists Yaya Bey, Adrienne Gaither, Tsedaye Makonnen, and Omolara Williams McCallister continue the project with workshops exploring how women and girls are particularly impacted by these issues. Together, artists and librarians created over 300 new posters which have been displayed in branch libraries and throughout the city.
Watch a video about the Hunger Wall Poster Project here.
Download printable versions of posters from this project here, as part of the Justseeds portfolio for the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign.

DC Public Library's Soul Tent 
Among the many structures that made up the protest camp known as Resurrection City in 1968 was the Many Races Soul Center—also known as the Soul Tent. Figures such as Muddy Waters, Dorothy Height and Jesse Jackson performed, spoke and rallied at the Soul Tent, and residents gathered to share experiences of poverty, oppression and solidarity through music and cultural expression. Inspired by this history, the Library’s
Soul Tent traveled to neighborhood libraries and events for a series of week-long installations in spring and summer 2018. Visitors were invited to explore this historic struggle for justice through music, words and images, through recordings and photographs from the DC Public Library’s Special Collections, the Library of Congress American Folklife Center and the Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Programs included community story collecting by artist-in-residence Anu Yadav, appearances by 2018 Poor People’s Campaign activists, musical collaborations curated by local artists, listening sessions and more. In June, the library’s Soul Tent joined the 2018 Poor People’s Campaign on the National Mall, where activists continued Dr. King’s fight on behalf of the over 45 millions Americans living in poverty today. This program was made possible by the HumanitiesDC Heritage Grant, and the DC Public Library Foundation. 

Watch a video about the Soul Tent here.

Other highlights of the People’s University series in 2018 included:

Go-Go Month: Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Soul Searchers
1968 marked the 50th anniversary of the beginnings of Chuck Brown’s legendary band the Soul Searchers. The Go-Go Archive celebrated this anniversary throughout August with an exhibit at Benning Library all month, and events including a Go-Go Archive table at the Big Ugly Truck Pop-Up Street Party, Movie Screenings, Library Takeout & The Go-Go Archive at DPR's Chuck Brown Day, and a Go-Go Pop-Up Museum and Panel Discussion.

Social Justice Poetry Slams
Organized by librarian Megan McNitt with Dwane B. of Whitman-Walker Health as part of the DC Public Library + Maryland Institute College of Art Curatorial Fellowship at Busboys & Poets.

One Year: 1968, An American Odyssey Book Club at the National Gallery

Visit DC Public Library's calendar for an up-to-date list by searching for 1968: 50th Anniversary Events.

People's University Online Resource
Click here for further information on People's University events and suggested reading lists. Explore a selection of newspaper clippings, photographs, audio and video from the library's collections that highlight this important moment in D.C. history. Discover reading lists for children, teens and adults. Learn more about ongoing programs and community partnerships to celebrate 1968. 

Continue to visit this page for updates.
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