When the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tenn., sanitation workers felt a sense of guilt mixed in with their sadness and shock, but they had more work to do.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. returned to Memphis, Tenn., on April 3, 1968, one day after the funeral of Larry Payne—the 16-year-old boy killed by Memphis Police Officer Leslie Dean Jones.
Memphis, Tenn., exploded into chaos on March 28, 1968, as militarized police officers—armed with rifles, tear gas, billy clubs and the full authority of the state—terrorized black protesters who were out in full force to support Memphis sanitation strikers.
After speaking to a rapt crowd on March 18, 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. returned to Memphis, Tenn., as promised, to march in solidarity with Memphis sanitation strikers.
During the 1968 Memphis, Tenn., sanitation strike, there were no signs that read “I am a woman” or “I am a wife” or “I am a mother.” The wives of sanitation strikers were given no awards for their tireless contributions to the struggle, but they should have been.
For the children of the Memphis, Tenn., sanitation strikers, the sounds, sights and smells of revolution, capitalism and white supremacy settled deep into their bones like the heaviest blues song, the kind that haunts and heals.
As the families of Echol Cole and Robert Walker struggled to put their loved ones to rest, a different kind of storm was brewing in Memphis, Tenn.—and Feb. 12, 1968, was a tipping point. Cole and Walker had only been dead for about two weeks, having been crushed to death by a faulty, outdated garbage truck, but their…
Sharecropping in the United States was slavery by another name, and many of the 1968 Memphis, Tenn., sanitation strikers were well acquainted with it.
Robert Walker, 30, and Echol Cole, 36, woke up on Thursday, Feb. 1, 1968, and went to work for the Memphis (Tenn.) Sanitation Department. They left their families for a long day of collecting garbage with the full expectation of returning home to them. Instead, as their shifts were about to end and heavy rain poured…
In Memphis, Tenn., 1968, 1,300 sanitation workers braved the bitter cold to engage in a revolutionary 65-day action to defend their right to personhood. These men struggled against the noose of white supremacy to proclaim their dignity. They stood, shoulder to shoulder, armed with picket signs and perseverance,…