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, Accessed 25 Jan. 2018.
  • “Key Contract Terms,” I Am A Man, accessed January 25, 2018,
  • “Local 1733 apology letter,” I Am A Man, accessed January 24, 2018,
  • “Mayor Loeb letter to strikers,” I Am A Man, accessed January 24, 2018,
  • AFSCME. “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.
  • Blinder, Alan. “Decades Later, Memphis to Compensate Black Sanitation Strikers of 1968.” New York Times. 7/25/2017.
  • Conover, Ted. “The Strike That Brought MLK to Memphis.” Smithsonian. January 2018.
  • Golodner, Dan et al. “I Am a Man.” Wayne State University Libraries.
  • Horton, Erica. “I AM A MAN Plaza to open next year in Downtown Memphis.” High Ground. 12/13/2017.
  • King Encyclopedia. “Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike (1968).” Martin Luther King Jr. and the Global Freedom Struggle. Stanford University.
  • Lawson, Rev. James. “To: All Marchers.” Via the Martin Lutehr King Jr. Research and Education Institute.
  • 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.
  • Rogers, Taylor and Bessie Rogers. “Standing With Dr. King in Memphis.” StoryCorps. Via NPR. 1/3/2006.
  • 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.
  • Strickland, Jim. “Doing the right thing by the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers.” Mayor of Memphis. Via medium. 7/6/2017.
  • Tewfik, Omar. “Surviving Memphis Sanitation Workers from 1968 Strike Honored by the NAACP with Prestigious ‘Vanguard Award’.” AFSCME press release. 1/11/2018.