As 50th Anniversary of MLK’s March on Washington Nears,

“The Movement” Now Focuses on Economic Freedoms


With the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic March on Washington in August, now is not only the time for reflection on the progress that was made by Dr. King’s movement, but to look toward fulfilling the part of Dr. King’s legacy that has yet to be fully realized: economic freedom and access to capital for all Americans.

The civil rights movement, begun in the 1950s and ’60s, understandably focused on securing basic freedoms for disenfranchised populations, such as minorities and women. In the following decades, securing these fundamental rights (voting, desegregation, etc.) has been achieved, but the effects of a country founded in part on inequality still remain though they may not be as obvious to some. The widening wealth gap, economic disenfranchisement, and access to capital that disproportionately affect minority groups are critical issues for the twenty-first century movement begun by Dr. King. Leaders in the modern civil and social rights movement must address these issues to enable the next generation to fulfill their own dreams.

Statistics regarding economic inequality across various groups are abundant, but here are a few of the most telling:

  • Minority-owned firms are more likely to be denied traditional loans with loan denial rates for minority firms being about three times higher compared to non-minority-owned firms grossing under $500,000 in receipts (Minority Business Development Agency)
  • Less than 5 percent of traditional capital and less than 3 percent of venture capital is invested in women owned and operated enterprises.
  • Black households had just $4,955 in average wealth in 2010
  • Capital access remains the most important factor limiting the establishment, expansion, and growth of minority-owned businesses. (Minority Business Development Agency)

Recognizing the institutional biases that remain in the capital raising process is the first step in addressing economic disenfranchisement. Entrepreneurs and small businesses are the lifeblood of a strong American economy, and access to capital is perhaps the most critical aspect of enabling them to succeed.

With this in mind, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Poverty Institute—the leading organization still working to keep Dr. King’s dream alive for citizens throughout the world—has generously agreed to partner with the organization I founded, the Kingonomics Innovation, Entrepreneurship & Investment Initiative, to organize the Emancipation of Capital Gala on August 22 to honor innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors that have “emancipated” and transformed their respective industries and ecosystems. The event will benefit initiatives that address poverty and the wealth gap.

The following day, August 23, the Kingonomics Conference and Bootcamps will bring together over one hundred experts in business and investment to educate veterans, women, and minority entrepreneurs from across the United States and around the world to learn, engage, connect, and collaborate. This conference will be an intense and interactive learning experience, where timely knowledge about access to capital, business growth, and investments will come from leading executives and thought leaders. 

We believe crowdfunding—the community coming together to educate, fund, and empower small business owners—is a living example of Dr. King and the SCLC’s Poor People campaign.

For more information about these two fiftieth anniversary events or for ticket information please visit

Dr. Rodney Sampson is a serial entrepreneur, the diversity and inclusion adviser to ABC’s Shark Tank and author of Kingonomics, a twenty-fifth century interpretation of Dr. King’s economic vision.