Donald L. Anderson is a former Capitol Hill lawyer who helped draft antipoverty legislation in the mid-1960’s. He first began to think seriously about breaking down the “color bar” as a 13-year-old student at Washington D.C.’s Dunbar High School. Anderson, a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and the London School of Economics, was the education counsel for the House Education and Labor Committee, where he helped draft legislation for the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1964.
In 1966 he was the General Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives Anti-Poverty Subcommittee but was dissatisfied with the approach it took to community action. In 1968 he founded the National Association of the Southern Poor and as executive director he introduced his concept of the Assembly, a means of encouraging low-income people in counties and cities to organize and solve individual and community problems, and applied it to Surry County in Virginia. The Assembly helped solve the county’s biggest problem—the disorganization and disjointedness of the poor.