April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Assassinated

In February of 1968, two Black garbage collectors were crushed by a malfunctioning truck in Memphis. Frustrated by the city’s response to the latest event in a long pattern of neglect and abuse of its Black employees, 1,300 Black sanitation workers went on strike.

The strikes continued for months and Dr. King visited multiple times to help organize non-violent protests and encourage compromise on the part of city officials. He was visiting Memphis at the time of his assassination on April 4, 1968.

On April 8, an estimated 42,000 people (led by Coretta Scott King, union leaders and the Southern Christian Leaderships Conference) silently marched through Memphis in honor of King, demanding that the Mayor give in to the union’s requests.

On April 16, Memphis City Council finally recognized the union and agreed to guarantee a better wage. Although the deal ended the strike, it was not until the union threatened to strike again several months later that the city ultimately followed through with its commitment.

We recognize The Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strikes of 1968 as a foundational moment in the movement to combat what is now referred to as Environmental Racism.

“Our society must come to respect the sanitation worker. He is as significant as the physician, for if he doesn’t do his job, disease is rampant.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., A Speech given to protestors and Striking sanitation workers at the mason temple in Memphis on march 23, 1968

by IFHCIdaho August 18, 2021