January 31, 1968

Sanitation workers are sent home because of heavy rains. White employees are paid their full day’s wages. African-Americans are given only partial pay.

sanitation workers sent home in memphis

February 1, 1968

Two African-American sanitation workers are crushed to death inside one of the city’s trucks.

sanitation workers crushed to death

February 12, 1968

Sanitation and other public employees go on strike. According to the union, only 38 of the city’s 30 trash trucks work. Newly elected city mayor Henry Loeb says the strike is illegal.

sanitation workers go on strike

February 13, 1968

A union demands the mayor recognize the union and asks for negotiations to resolve grievances. Loeb says new employees will be hired unless the strikers return for work.


February 14, 1968

Thousands of tons of trash has built up around the city. Loeb demands that workers return to their jobs at 7 a.m. the next day. The city and the union halt negotiations.


February 16, 1968

The union asks the city council leaders to intercede, but the council stands behind Loeb. The local chapter of the NAACP supports the striking workers. The NAACP was vital in changing civil rights laws.


February 18, 1968

A Memphis rabbi moderates a meeting between Loeb and AFSCME members. The meeting lasts until early the next morning.

rabbi negotiations

February 19, 1968

The NAACP and other groups picket and hold an all-night vigil at city hall.

naacp pickets in memphis

February 20, 1968

The NAACP and AFSCME call for a boycott of downtown merchants.


February 22, 1968

A city council sub-committee wants the city to recognize the union. The meeting ends with no action taken.


February 23, 1968

The full council refuses to recognize the union. Police and strikers clash during a main street march.


February 24th, 1968

Black leaders and ministers form an organization supporting the strike and the downtown boycott. A court grants an injunction preventing the union from picketing or holding demonstrations.

unions prevented from stiking

February 25, 1968

Ministers call on their congregations to boycott downtown businesses and march.


February 26, 1968

A rumor circulates that the two sides have reached a compromise. Marches are held.


February 27, 1968

A compromise is met. A massive demonstration is held at city hall an about two dozen union members are cited for contempt of court.


February 29, 1968

Each striking worker receives a letter from Loeb asking him to come back to work, but the mayor still refuses to recognize the union. Two of the strike’s leaders are arrested for jaywalking.

mayor loeb letter

March 1, 1968

A federal judge throws the union lawsuit out of court. Loeb blames the strikers for broken windows at his home.

federal judge memphis

March 3, 1968

A gospel marathon, raises money for strikers. AFSCME files lawsuit in federal court.


March 4, 1968

Loeb opposes a Tennessee Senate proposal to create a state mediation board to resolve the strike.


March 5, 1968

Ministers announce Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will come to Memphis. More than 100 people are arrested for a city hall sit-in.

mlk to memphis

March 6, 1968

Strike supporters are are blamed for South Memphis trash fires.


March 7, 1968

City Council votes against checkoff proposal.


March 9, 1968

The National Guard starts holding riot drills.

national guard starts drills

March 11, 1968

High school students cut classes to march with black ministers. Two students are arrested.

students march with ministers

March 13, 1968

Nine demonstrators are arrested for harassing downtown shoppers and are arrested.

demonstrators arrested

March 14, 1968

The head of the national NAACP tells a meeting of 10,000 people that the group support is strong, peaceful protests. Six people are arrested for blocking the entrance to the sanitation plant.

naacp meets with crowd

March 16, 1968

Loeb says the entire city should should vote on the dues checkoff questions in August. Union disagrees.


March 18, 1968

Newspapers claim the strike is failing as 90 garbage trucks work. King calls for a city-wide March 22 in front of 22,000 people.


March 20, 1968

Loeb restates┬áhis opposition to the union’s demands.

mayor loeb disagrees

March 22, 1968

The march is canceled as a massive snowstorm blocks King’s return. City and union agree to mediation and meetings begin.


March 27, 1968

The mediation talks fall apart and the SCLC rallies in support of strikers.


March 28, 1968

Kings march is marred by violence. Police move into crowds with nightsticks, mace, teargas, and gunfire. State legislature authorized curfew and National Guardsmen move into the city.


March 29, 1968

300 sanitation workers and ministers stage a silent, peaceful, march to City Hall, escorted by armed guardsmen. Loeb turns down an offer from President Johnson and AFL-CIO President George Meany to assist in resolving the dispute.

george meany

March 31, 1968

King cancels trip to Africa and plans a return to Memphis to lead a peaceful march. Ministers urge restraint . Attempts to renew mediation of strike fail.

mlk cancels africa trip to come to memphis

April 1, 1968

The 7 p.m. city-wide curfew is lifted.

memphis pd enforce curfew

April 2, 1968

The National Guard is withdrawn and hundreds attend 16 year-old Larry Payne’s funeral , who was fatally shot by police during March 18th protest.

larry payne funeral

April 3, 1968

King returns to Memphis and delivers his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech.

mlk mountaintop speech

April 4, 1968

James Earl Ray assasinates Dr. King as he stands outside his balcony at the Lorraine hotel.

james earl ray

April 5, 1968

Federal troops and Attorney General Ramsey Clark come to Memphis. The FBI begins an international manhunt for King’s assassin. Johnson tells undersecretary of labor James Reynolds to settle the strike.


April 6, 1968

Reynolds begins meetings with Loeb and Union officials. Rarely are the opposing groups together in the same meeting.

reynolds meets loeb

April 8, 1968

Coretta Scott King and dozens of national figures lead a peaceful memorial march through downtown.

coretta scott king memphis

April 9, 1968

Dr. King’s funeral is held in Atlanta.

dr king funeral

April 10, 1968

Reynolds stops up meetings with city and union officials.

union meetins stopped

April 16, 1968

The strike ends and city and union officials come to an agreement.

union meets agreement


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