MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN,
& REV. ALLYN MAXFIELD-STEELE
A Legacy of Combating Rural Poverty
In 2018, rural communities throughout the United States continue to face and endure the causes and effects of poverty - according to the 2016 US Census, 11.7% of people in rural areas lived below the United States poverty line. 50 years ago, Robert F. Kennedy, both as a Senator and a presidential candidate, took on this cause, working to eradicate poverty and create equal economic and social opportunities for all, regardless of race or gender. In Mississippi, despite resistance from the Lyndon B. Johnson administration, he worked with Marian Wright Edelman to improve the conditions of impoverished black communities, and in Kentucky, he continued this work by fully immersing himself in these areas in order to best understand the problems faced and felt on a daily basis. In each of these areas, RFK centered his interactions around children, taking the time to connect with the youngest citizens in need.
Today, according to Save the Children’s 2018 report, children living in impoverished rural areas experience a degree of hardship and challenges unmatched by any other group. Access to medical care is limited, nutrition is compromised and advanced academic opportunities are neither facilitated nor achieved.
In this lesson plan, we explore Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy of rural economic justice. As we build a bridge between the past and the present and reflect on the work of the advocates of then and now, we should keep one question in mind: what do we do next?
BECOME A DEFENDER
The activities listed below are suggestions for how students can become human rights Defenders in their classrooms and beyond.
Research the following topic areas in relation to rural poverty: health, education, employment, housing. After, create an awareness and action campaign that addresses one of the above issues
Reach out to local politicians and explain why we need to address rural poverty.
Hold a panel discussion about rural poverty in America, inviting local activists, educators and politicians to bring awareness to the issue.