Site Description-KP

Paper Title:

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


Author Biography:

My name is Kim Padilla and I am currently a senior at New Jersey Institute of Technology studying Information Systems. I grew up in Newark, New Jersey specifically in the Ironbound Community. I remember walking to my elementary school bright and early at around 8am Monday through Friday’s. While walking to school I would always find myself coming across the garbage truck and the garbage collectors. As a kid I constantly heard rumors of garbage collectors, such as the workers are inmates and are only allowed out to complete their job. Once I got older, I learned that that rumor was exactly that, a rumor. I have always been intrigued by their profession, therefore, when skimming around possible topics the Memphis Sanitation Strike from 1968 spoke out to me the most. I was very interested in learning about how a job that was “looked down upon” could have such a huge impact in improving the environment for the American Society.


Project Site Description:

It all started when Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death by a faulty truck in Memphis, Tennessee on February 11, 1968. From that day on, the Memphis Sanitation Strike began and did not come to an end until April 16, 1968 with the help of very influential people such as Martin Luther King. It was this strike that alerted the people about the inequalities regarding the pollution in African American dominated communities due to the placements of waste facilities. In 1982, because of a state court decision, over 60,000 tons of toxic soil was placed in Warren County, North Carolina. At that time, Warren County was home to the highest percentage of African Americans in the US. Alliances were formed influenced by the strike in Memphis to protest the toxic waste and give attention towards the relationships between pollution, waste and African American communities. And so, it leaves me with this overall question, how did the death of Martin Luther King, Robert Walker and Echol Cole enlighten the path towards environmental justice? If it was not for these horrifying yet monumental events many more communities would still be infested with toxic pollution. So toxic that people have gained cancer, asthma, liver and kidney disease. Although this issue is not over yet, because of this titanic movement communities that are home to many minorities get to live a little bit longer.


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