Primary Source Report-KP

Memphis Sanitation Strike from 1968 Sparks the Movement over Wasteful Pollution in African American Communities

– Kimberly Padilla

Primary Source List:

Source #1

Title: A road to walk-a struggle for environmental justice



This photo represents a form of peaceful protesting which so happened to be the ideal tactic that Warren County encouraged when protesting. This tactic was gained from the nonviolent protests in Memphis Tennessee, the last place that Martin Luther King gave his powerful speech of striving for the end of racial injustice. This imagery can help me represent the similarities between Warren County and Memphis allowing a visual representation of how one influenced the other.

Source #2

Title: I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

Location: (audio)


The sole purpose of incorporating Martin Luther King’s speech in my paper is to shed light on certain components where he encourages his followers to continue fighting for their rights but in a peaceful manner. This is the last speech King ever made and so it became a very powerful one. It was a speech where he influences many people beyond Memphis to keep striving by stating “we’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end.”

Source #3:

Title: Police officers mazing and showing gestures of violence towards peaceful protesters.

Location: Bettmann Archive/ Getty Images


My paper mainly talks about two different locations, Memphis Tennessee and Warren County in North Carolina. Although this image only shows actions occurring in Memphis, a similar situation transpired in Warren County. Therefore, this source provides evidence in the similarities between both locations and how one lead to another.

Primary Source Analysis:

Source #3

This photo was taken on February 23, 1968 during a nonviolent protest in Memphis, Tennessee. However, as you can see this image screams anything but peaceful. At this time, it is said that there were about 1,500 strikers who participated in the Sanitation Strike fighting for the rights of garbage workers. Nonetheless, this fight was more than a fight for garbage workers but a fight for African American rights, a fight to stop inequality in workplaces, in general public and even in what they would soon realize to be, environmental discriminations. While a group of striking garbage workers protest peacefully down the streets of Memphis, police officers begin to violently attack the people of color.

The Memphis Sanitation Strike is known to be one of the most peaceful protests from back in the day when Martin Luther King was still alive. Even in this image it is evident that the strikers don’t appear to be a threat to those police officers. On the right, you can see a man in a trench coat holding his hands up while the police officers approach him. His hand position symbolized that he is no threat to them and yet you still see maze in the hands of the policeman. You also see another police officer actually pressing on the maze directly to another man in a trench coat who appears to be blocking his face and walking, again, no indication of being violent. Last but not least, pay close attention to the white man on the right of this image. All the people of color behind him are protecting their faces from being mazed but he is not. He has his hands in his pocket walking as if he had no care in the world. He was the only one not being targeted by police officers and his stance demonstrations exactly how calm he is even when violence is around him. Primarily because that’s something he doesn’t have to worry about due to the color of his skin.

Keywords: Race, African American, Community, Pollution, Toxic