Background

“Our mission is to save the soul of America,”

On March 28th    1968, 5,000 people came out to support the sanitation workers strike. “Our mission is to save the soul of America,” King says in Memphis. The supporters were marching down Beale Street carrying sighs that read “I Am A Man” when about 200 youths began breaking windows and looting. Police responded by throwing tear gas into the crowd. MLK was shaken up and demoralized by the incident. The next day, marchers returned to Beale Street, this time accompanied by 3,800 National Guardsman in tanks equipped with machine guns – (shocking!).

Mayor Marshall Cato Ellis served King with a Federal Court Order restraining King from organizing another march planned for April 8th in Memphis.

After MLK was assinated on April 4th, Coretta Scott King lead a march through downtown Memphis on April 8th, the day the second sanitation strike was scheduled and 4 days after King was shot.

Once I learned the history behind the Civil Rights Movement, I realized that these events were not isolated incidents in the sense that in 1968 black people suddenly decided to rise up and fight for their rights.  The blast of protests beginning in 1961 was the explosion at the end of a 100-year fuse of anger.  The federal courts were not upholding African American’s civil rights guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Constitutional Amendments.  Jim Crow laws were alive and thriving in the Deep South until 1964. It was basically apartheid in the US.

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