In early 1968 the grisly on-the-job deaths of two African American
sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee, prompted an extended strike by that
city’s segregated force of trash collectors. Workers sought union protection,
higher wages, improved safety, and the integration of their work force. Their
work stoppage became a part of the larger civil rights movement and drew an
impressive array of national movement leaders to Memphis, including, on more
than one occasion, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
King added his voice to the struggle in what
became the final speech of his life. His assassination in Memphis on April 4 sparked protests and violence throughout America and helped force the
acceptance of worker demands in Memphis. The sanitation strike ended eight days
after King’s death.
Marching to the Mountaintop explores how the media, politics, the civil
rights movement, and labor protests all converged to set the scene for one of
King’s greatest speeches—and for his tragic death.
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