The Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike


U.S. National Guard troops block off Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, as Memphis sanitation strike marchers pass by wearing “I AM A MAN” placards, March 29, 1968. Bettman/Contributor/Getty Images

Memphis sanitation workers stayed off the job starting January 12, 1968 in a strike that lasted for nine weeks. This was the strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis, Tennessee, where he was assassinated on April 4 of that year.

Here's the "I Have Been to the Mountaintop” speech.

Here's a link to The Root's series of videos on the strike.

Tracy's Research:

  • "Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike of 1968." Civil Rights in the United States, edited by Waldo E. Martin, Jr. and Patricia Sullivan, Macmillan Reference USA, 2000. U.S. History In Context, http://link.galegroup.com/apps/doc/BT2338230953/GPS?u=som&sid=GPS&xid=04da914b. Accessed 25 Jan. 2018.
  • “Key Contract Terms,” I Am A Man, accessed January 25, 2018, https://digital.library.wayne.edu/iamaman/items/show/205
  • “Local 1733 apology letter,” I Am A Man, accessed January 24, 2018, https://digital.library.wayne.edu/iamaman/items/show/154.
  • “Mayor Loeb letter to strikers,” I Am A Man, accessed January 24, 2018, https://digital.library.wayne.edu/iamaman/items/show/155.
  • AFSCME. “1968 AFSCME Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike Chronology.” https://www.afscme.org/union/history/mlk/1968-afscme-memphis-sanitation-workers-strike-chronology
  • Appleby, David et al., directors. “At the River I Stand.” Paul Winfield, narrator. Memphis State University. California Newsreel. 1993. Via Vimeo. https://vimeo.com/ondemand/attheriver
  • Blinder, Alan. “Decades Later, Memphis to Compensate Black Sanitation Strikers of 1968.” New York Times. 7/25/2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/us/memphis-sanitation-workers-strike-grants.html
  • Conover, Ted. “The Strike That Brought MLK to Memphis.” Smithsonian. January 2018. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/revisiting-sanitation-workers-strike-180967512/#0wvRrhe1i3Mo4XW8.99
  • Golodner, Dan et al. “I Am a Man.” Wayne State University Libraries. https://digital.library.wayne.edu/iamaman/
  • Horton, Erica. “I AM A MAN Plaza to open next year in Downtown Memphis.” High Ground. 12/13/2017. http://www.highgroundnews.com/devnews/plazagroundbreaking.aspx
  • King Encyclopedia. “Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike (1968).” Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle. Stanford University. http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_memphis_sanitation_workers_strike_1968/
  • Lawson, Rev. James. “To: All Marchers.” Via the Martin Lutehr King Jr. Research and Education Institute. http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/primarydocuments/680408-010.pdf
  • Lucy, William. “Civil Rights History Project Interview completed by the Southern Oral History Program under contract to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History & Culture and the Library of Congress, 2013.” Recorded 6/25/2013. Interviewer Emilye Crosby. Videographer John Bishop. https://cdn.loc.gov/service/afc/afc2010039/afc2010039_crhp0094_Lucy_transcript/afc2010039_crhp0094_Lucy_transcript.pdf
  • Rogers, Taylor and Bessie Rogers. “Standing With Dr. King in Memphis.” StoryCorps. Via NPR. 1/3/2006. https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5155687
  • Sokol, Jason. “Dynamics of Leadership and the Memphis Sanitation Strike of 1968.” Tennessee Historical Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 4 (Winter 2001), pp. 258-283. Via JSTOR. http://www.jstor.org/stable/42627672
  • Strickland, Jim. “Doing the right thing by the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers.” Mayor of Memphis. Via medium. 7/6/2017. https://medium.com/@MayorMemphis/1968sanitationworkers-21f7621e648a
  • Tewfik, Omar. “Surviving Memphis Sanitation Workers from 1968 Strike Honored by the NAACP with Prestigious ‘Vanguard Award’.” AFSCME press release. 1/11/2018. https://www.afscme.org/news/press-room/press-releases/2018/surviving-memphis-sanitation-workers-from-1968-strike-honored-by-the-naacp-with-prestigious-vanguard-award

Topics in this Podcast: U.S. history, Martin Luther King Jr., labor, racism, Civil Rights Movement, civil rights, 20th century