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Tennessee: Strikes and Violence in Memphis (1968)

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African-American sanitation workers wearing placards reading "I AM A MAN," march past National Guard troops; at a similar demonstration the day before, a black teenager was slain by police. Memphis, TN, 1968.

In Memphis, Tennessee, black sanitation workers went on strike in February 1968 for better conditions, equal treatment with white sanitation workers, and recognition of their union. They had been on strike for seven weeks when Martin Luther King, Jr. came to speak, as a favor to his old friend Jim Lawson, one of the leaders of the strike. King later led a march, but unschooled in nonviolence, many marchers began destroying shop windows and King was hurried away in a car. Two hundred and eighty people were arrested, 60 were injured and police shot and killed a black teenager. City leaders had been worried King would stir up trouble and their worst fears were being realized. The violence in Memphis was a personal failure for King and he returned to the city on April 3, 1968 to rally support for another march, one that would be more disciplined.

His assassin was in Memphis to meet him.

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