By Lestey Gist, The Gist of Freedom
Martin Luther King Jr. Remembered! Assassinated April 4th, 1968
After two workers were crushed to death in a truck’s compactor, the sanitation workers went on strike Feb. 11. They demanded a raise that would take them off welfare lines. The situation had obvious racial undertones: Most of the workers were black, and city officials standing against the union were white.
With the slogan “I am a man,” the workers also wanted the respect and dignity that comes with doing a low-paying, backbreaking job with great pride and effort.
King came to Memphis to support them. He delivered his last public speech April 3, declaring, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.”
The next day, standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel, King was killed by a rifle bullet fired by James Earl Ray from a boardinghouse across the street.
The assassination led to riots in Memphis and several U.S. cities. But the strike, stained forever with King’s blood, turned to victory when the city acquiesced to a 10-cent raise and succumbed to other demands, including unionization.
Labor scholars call it a watershed moment.
The Poor People’s Campaign!
Martin Luther King Jr. wanted to shut down Washington in the spring of 1968. He was organizing what he hoped would be the longest-running protest in the history of the nation’s capital. King called it the Poor People’s Campaign.
He intended to dramatize the suffering of the nation’s poor by bringing them to the capital. Poor people would live together on the National Mall – the long strip of land between the U.S. Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial – and engage in widespread civil disobedience. King wanted to force the federal government to deal with poverty.