WSU launches online exhibit of '68 strike

Wayne State University’s Walter P. Reuther Library and WSU University Libraries have unveiled an online exhibit documenting the 1968 sanitation workers strike in Memphis, Tenn.

School officials say the exhibit contains historic documents and photographs of the events in Memphis, along with video clips from a symposium held at Wayne State University in 2003 that commemorated the 35th anniversary of the strike.

The clips show past American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Secretary-Treasurer William Lucy and strike participants Rev. James S. Lawson, Jesse Epps and Taylor Rogers sharing their thoughts on this historic event.

The exhibit’s link is

In February 1968, the sanitation workers in Memphis, almost all African Americans, voted to strike against the city.

The workers sought better working conditions and recognition of their union, AFSCME Local 1733.

The mayor declared the strike illegal and refused to negotiate. The workers remained on strike for 65 days, enduring mace, beatings and arrests.

They also carried signs with what became the hallmark phrase of the demonstration: I AM A MAN.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Memphis to support the strikers and led a demonstration that was marred by looting and violence.

Disappointed but resolute, King promised to return to Memphis to lead a non-violent march.

He returned and delivered his famous “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech.

On April 4, 1968, 44 years ago this week, however, before he could lead the strikers in a non-violent march, King was assassinated by a sniper.