Martin Luther King came to Memphis Tennessee three times to support the sanitation workers’ demands for job safety, better wages and benefits, and union recognition.
Martin Luther King had three different reasons for visiting Memphis Tennessee:
1,300 black sanitation workers were protesting their terrible working conditions, discrimination, and low pay. It was obvious they were discriminated against when they were sent home without pay and white workers stayed on the job. They started a strike on February 12, 1968. The last time Martin Luther King came to Memphis, Tennessee was to speak and support the second march of the sanitation workers. The last speech he ever gave was at the Mason Temple on April 3, 1968. That speech is now known as the “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.
The strike lasted for 64 days and grew into one of the major civil rights events. The American Federation of state, county, and municipal employees (AFSCME) and the workers demanded an end to discrimination, higher wages, and union recognition. This attracted the national news media as well as others who joined the cause, like community leaders and members of the clergy. The strike finally ended on April 12, 1968, and the city of Memphis agreed to the workers’ demands, even though more strikes had to be threatened to make them honor the agreement.