Eyes on the Prize: The Promised Land (1967-1968)

About This Episode

"A time comes when silence is betrayal, and that time has come for us in relation to Vietnam." — Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

By 1967, the U.S. is deeply entrenched in Vietnam, a war Martin Luther King, Jr. is publicly opposed to. In a speech at New York's Riverside Church, King says, "the promises of the great society have been shot down on the battlefields of Vietnam...making the poor, white and Negro, bear the heaviest burden both at the front and at home." Although King's views affect his public image, the tide is turning; Americans have grown weary of the steady stream of body bags coming home. The 1968 presidential campaign becomes a referendum on the war with President Lyndon Johnson not seeking re-election. Instead, candidates Eugene McCarthy and Robert F. Kennedy vie for the nomination with anti-war platforms.

"...We are dealing with issues that cannot be solved without the nation spending billions of dollars and undergoing a radical redistribution of economic power." — Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

One in seven Americans lives in poverty in 1967. Economic justice is the next target for Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) as they embark on the Poor People's Campaign. Upon activist Marian Wright's recommendation, the SCLC plans to bring "a nonviolent army of the poor" to the nation's attention. While organizing, King detours to support striking sanitation workers in Memphis, where he is assassinated on April 4, 1968. Riots erupt around the country as people mourn the loss. The SCLC presses forward with the poor people's march in Washington, D.C. but the protest fails. The encampment on the National Mall, known as "Resurrection City," is shut down.

The award-winning documentary series Eyes on the Prize tells the definitive story of the civil rights era from the point of view of the ordinary men and women whose extraordinary actions launched a movement that changed the fabric of American life, and embodied a struggle whose reverberations continue to be felt today.