Civil Rights in the James H. Laue Papers

James H. Laue was born in River Falls, Wisconsin, in 1937. In 1959, Laue was admitted to the Harvard graduate program in sociology where he studied race relations and the sociology of religion. During his graduate studies, Laue became involved in the Civil Rights movement, attending lunch counter sit-ins, church “kneel-ins,” and protests organized by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, giving him first-hand knowledge that he would go on to use in his 1966 doctoral dissertation, “Direct Action and Desegregation: Toward a Theory of the Rationalization of Protest.”

Civil Rights Notebook-Atlanta Sit-In, page 19. James H. Laue papers, Collection #C0055, Box 53, Folder 02, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Civil Rights Notebook-Atlanta Sit-In, page 19. James H. Laue papers, Collection #C0055, Box 53, Folder 02, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries. Click image to enlarge.

 

In 1986, Laue came to George Mason University and became the first Lynch Professor of Conflict Resolution. Until his death in 1993, Laue participated in dozens of academic conferences, taught numerous classes and workshops on dispute resolution, published scores of academic papers, collaborated with Civil Rights activists and arms-control advocacy groups, delivered sermons at churches and speeches at graduate commencements, and remained active in the field of peacemaking and conflict resolution.

 

"Mission Statement". James H. Laue papers, Collection #C0055, Box 5, Folder 02, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

“Mission Statement”. James H. Laue papers, Collection #C0055, Box 5, Folder 02, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries. Click image to enlarge.

 

Poster for GMU Event. James H. Laue papers, Collection #C0055, Box 98, Folder 14, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries.

Poster for GMU Event. James H. Laue papers, Collection #C0055, Box 98, Folder 14, Special Collections Research Center, George Mason University Libraries. Click image to enlarge.

 

His papers contain manuscripts, workshop papers, notebooks, legal documents, photographs, audio cassettes, memorabilia and correspondence with influential figures like Coretta Scott King. These papers document Laue’s development as a sociology student and Civil Rights activist in the early 1960s through his career as a mediator and professor of urban sociology and conflict resolution into the early 1990s.

The James H. Laue papers can be searched by clicking on any of the links above. If you are interested in learning more about the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University, click here.

To search the collections held at Special Collections Research Center, go to our website and browse the finding aids by subject or title. You may also e-mail us at speccoll@gmu.edu or call 703-993-2220 if you would like to schedule an appointment, request materials, or if you have questions. Appointments are not necessary to request and view collections.

The Second Phase of Civil Rights: Photographs of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign

Coretta Scott King with campaign organizers, including SCLC leader Ralph Abernathy locking arms to her left. Photo taken from the Jack Rottier Collection.

In December of 1967, when nearly 15 percent of all Americans and 40 percent of African Americans lived below the poverty line, Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) began organizing a national campaign against poverty. The Poor People’s Campaign was to inaugurate a new phase of civil rights extending the struggle for racial equality to the cause of economic justice in America’s slums. On April 4, 1968, while campaigning for black sanitary workers in Memphis, King was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Just a few weeks later the SCLC and King’s grief-stricken widow, Coretta Scott, decided to push ahead with the campaign anyway. The next month, thousands of demonstrators gathered at the National Mall demanding federal action to alleviate poverty as SCLC leaders, joined by the National Welfare Rights Organization, lobbied Congress to introduce an “economic bill of rights” that would include $30 billion for the creation of employment programs and low-income housing and a guaranteed minimum annual income for all Americans.

Demonstrators on the National Mall. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection. Photo © SEPS

On May 12, 1968 the first wave of demonstrators poured into Washington, DC from across the East Coast and Midwest. Over the following weeks, they erected an encampment of makeshift huts on the National Mall, dubbed “Resurrection City,” where they resided for the duration of the campaign. In addition to Coretta Scott King, the SCLC, and the National Welfare Rights Organization, numerous activist groups and leaders joined the campaign, including Jesse Jackson, members of the United Auto Workers, and the DC chapter of the New York-based anarchist group, “Up Against the Wall.” Campaigners occupied the National Mall for over a month, enduring heavy rains as they lobbied congress and marched through Washington spreading awareness of the cause. But after suffering a series of setbacks—from muddy conditions and a lack of press coverage to conflicting strategies and the assassination of Robert Kennedy—demonstrators lost morale, and the campaign died out. Resurrection City closed down on June 19th.

Jesse Jackson addressing a crowd on the Mall. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection. Photo © SEPS

Though less prominent than the Vietnam War protests of the late 60s and less successful than the Civil Rights movement of the early 60s, the Poor People’s Campaign evinced a widespread commitment to ending poverty in America and deserves a place in the public memory.

The photographs displayed here contribute to the preservation of that memory. They were selected from the extensive Ollie Atkins Collection and the recently acquired Jack Rottier Collection, which document politics and culture in Washington, DC from the 1950s through the 1970s. A finding aid for the Rottier photographs has recently been completed, and the collection is now available for research. Both collections are open to the public and can be accessed at Special Collections and Archives.

The National Welfare Rights Organization marching to end hunger. Photo from the Jack Rottier Collection.

Family of hippie activists camped out at Resurrection City. Oliver F. Atkins Photograph Collection. Photo © SEPS

View of the Reflecting Pool from the Washington Monument with Resurrection City on the left. Photo taken from the Jack Rottier Collection.