It’s not every day you can get a history lesson firsthand from people who experienced something as big as the 1968 Sanitation Strike.
Four of the original sanitation workers who went on strike 50 years ago spoke Monday to a group full of young people.
The stories of these men are inspirational and some of the kids who attended the discussion had no recollection of the strike that brought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Memphis months before he was assassinated. Organizers say the mission was to educate the public.
“We stood up for our rights. All we wanted to do was be treated fairly,” said Reverend Leslie Moore.
Reverend Moore, Baxter Leach, Elmore Nickleberry, and Reverend Cleophus Smith gave testimonies and answered questions.
“I really do believe if they know the past, the past will inspire them to do better. And I think that’s where Memphis has dropped the ball, we’re not telling them the story to our young people as much as possible,” said Johnnie Mosley, who helped organize the event.
1968 sanitation worker, Reverend Smith vividly remembers when someone unleashed their dog to attack him.
“So, when I get to the front, this Caucasian gentleman asked me, how you come out back there and that dog didn’t kill you. This man done let the dog out on me while I had my back turned. So, I think about that often,” said Reverend Smith.
And some of the kids had never heard of the deaths of two sanitation workers that prompted the strike.
“I didn’t know much about that. I didn’t know that people had got killed in the garbage can and I really didn’t know they did the strike,” said Zakira Robertson-Rice, a Whitehaven 7th grader.
“I think it’s really cool and I’m surprised that they came up and started sharing their story of how they went through everything,” said Trinity Pryor, a 12-year-old who attended the discussion.
Local 24 News also learned there is a push to get 70 part-time sanitation workers promoted to full time.