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Dana  Cokely

Jacqueline Mitchard: Character Growth and Development in Crisis
Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Poor People’s Campaign

Martin Luther King, Jr. used powerful words to expose the destruction and unjust treatment of all destitute individuals. During the civil rights movement families were starving, men were unemployed, women were living in fear, working hours were being distributed unequally and unfair salaries were given to many poor people living in America. By exposing the primary problem of poverty in society, King hoped for individuals and local groups to join his Poor People’s Campaign. The campaign gathered in November 1967 and it differed from previous civil right movements by welcoming both men and women of all races, and ages. Impoverished communities were known as “Cities of Hope,” yearning for a powerful campaign to lead them in reforming injustice. The Poor People’s Campaign felt that through nonviolence its members had the power to reform the lives of poor people in America. The campaign planned to march to Washington, DC in the spring of 1968, in order to expose the crisis of poverty within their communities. Tragically, King’s assassination prevented him from launching the Poor People’s Campaign. The campaign members began the march as it was originally planned, but King’s leadership was sorely missed. The demonstration in Washington failed to solve the problems of poverty, due to a lack of leadership and organizational skills.

Jacquelyn Mitchard and Martin Luther King, Jr. both focus their works around the same theme of injustice. In her novels, A Theory of Relativity, Christmas, Present, and The Deep End of the Ocean, the characters are challenged by a struggle to overcome disastrous situations. The characters depend upon different strategies to cope with loss. Unity and hope are two themes that provide comfort and support in overcoming a crisis. Each calamitous situation in Mitchard’s novels has a hopeful ending. The characters’ strength and independence allows their lives to progress. Mitchard and King both symbolize the power of unity among suffering people which allows healing during times of hardship.

Major Works Consulted:

King, Martin L., Carson, Clayborne, Ed. The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.. New York: Warner, 1998.
Mitchard, Jacquelyn. Christmas, Present. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.
---. The Deep End of the Ocean. New York: Penguin, 1996.
Young Andrew. An Easy Burden. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.
Photo Credit: Mitchard, Jacqueline. Christmas, Present. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.

Jacquelyn
Mitchard

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