10 may 1968 & poor peoples campaign headquarters
#OTD 10 May 1968 The Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) Poor People's Campaign headquarters (2000 14th St NW) was abuzz with activity. The Poor Peoples Campaign headquarters was the central space for a wide range of organizing and activities taking place throughout the city. The headquarters were on the 1st and 2nd floors of a former bank building. The image above is a photo of the door insert retrieved from the headquarters entrance.
Carmen Gillmore and Carroll Green met on their first day of volunteering at the PPC headquarters. Gillmore, twenty years old and a 1966 graduate of McKinley Tech HS, worked the state-of-the-art switchboard. (Gillmore had recently turned 20. She got her drivers license on 4 April.) Green, a Marine veteran who owned a red 1967 VW beetle, worked transportation. The first day of volunteering, Gillmore remembers wearing a yellow shirtwaist dress, stockings and black patent pumps. Green suggested that she dress more casually since it was the 'poor peoples campaign'.
According to Gillmore, "The switchboard was on the 2nd floor. It was kind of like a loft area." She admits to not being the best switchboard operator. "I cut everybody off those first couple of days." (Interestingly, her grandmother had been a switchboard operator at the Dunbar Hotel, just one block away, when she was younger.)
Green transported campaign leaders between the Pitts Motel (14th & Belmont Sts NW), the Dunbar Hotel (15th & U Sts NW) and Resurrection City (National Mall), among other places. He also drove Gillmore home every day.
For both Gillmore and Green, this was a transformative experience. Volunteering for the PPC served as an introduction to activism and was the beginning of a friendship that has lasted 50 years.
A few months after the Poor Peoples Campaign ended and SCLC closed the headquarters, Green drove by the building and noticed that the doors were still intact. He drove a few blocks to his apartment near 18th St & Columbia Rd, NW and got his hammer and screw. He drove back to the building and removed the insert from the door. He put the insert into his VW Beetle and drove home. He has kept it for 50 years.
Your comments are welcome below. Did you, a family member or a neighbor also work for SCLC and the PPC? What did you do? Do you have photographs and other ephemera? Do you remember the headquarters and the building? You may comment privately here.
Photo source: Courtesy of Carroll Green. Photo taken by Mr. Green, January 2018. Mr. Green recently donated the door insert to the Smithsonian Institution.
I thank Carmen Gillmore Scott for introducing me to Carroll Green. And I thank both of them for their phone conversations. emails and texts. And we are all lucky that Mr. Green had the foresight and the bravery to 'liberate' this historical object. The building was later torn down and replaced with the Reeves Center. You can learn more about Mr. Green in his upcoming memoir, Almost Heaven: It Wasn't Even Close. A Legacy of Love.