May 25th marked the 30th anniversary of “Hands Across America,” one of the nation’s largest and most famous actions to end poverty.
On this day in 1986, six and a half million people formed a chain called Hands Across America to raise money and awareness about the nation’s hungry and homeless. The event was planned by U.S.A. for Africa, a charity best known for recording the song, “We Are the World.”
The human chain began in New York City and ran to Washington, D.C., Chicago, Dallas, and eventually to Los Angeles. For 15 minutes, people along the entire chain joined hands to show their solidarity in the fight against hunger. Gaps in the chain were filled with rope and with chains of paper dolls. The event ultimately raised $15 million for charity.
This event holds special significance for us because its sponsor, U.S.A. for Africa, provided some of the seed money to launch the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness. Hands Across America was one of the earliest events where we mobilized students to speak out against poverty.