“Martin Luther King, the Memphis Strike and Public Memory of the Civil Rights Movement”
Brian Kelly and Eamonn McCann
First in the Series on “Turning Point 1968: from Belfast to Beijing”
4pm Thursday, 10 April 2008
Elmwood Learning and Teaching Centre Lecture Hall, Queen’s University Belfast
The 4th of April 2008 marks the fortieth anniversary of the assassination of American civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. Few who take the time to honour King will remember, however, that he spent the last days of his life supporting a strike by some of the lowest paid workers in the US—1300 black sanitation workers (bin men) in Memphis, Tennessee. King’s involvement in the Memphis strike derived from two sources: his strategic reorientation at a point of deep crisis in the black freedom movement and the exasperation and militancy of black public workers in Memphis itself. Although remembered almost exclusively as an apostle of non-violence, in the final year of his life King grappled with two critical issues facing American society in the late sixties: the massive poverty left untouched by the legislative triumphs over segregation and the deepening slaughter underway in Vietnam. In a public presentation on April 10th, Brian Kelly, Senior Lecturer in History and a prize-winning historian of the American South, will explain the developments that brought King to Memphis and offer some thoughts on the relationship between historical scholarship and popular memory. He will be joined by Eamonn McCann, a leading figure in the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland and a well-know local activist and writer. The talk is the first in a series of events being organized to mark the fortieth anniversary of the tumultuous year of 1968.
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Payne, Charles. I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (California, 1995)
Ransby, Barbara. Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision (Chapel Hill, 2003)
Williams, Robert Franklin. Negroes with Guns (Detroit, 1968)
Hall, Jacquelyn Dowd. “The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of the Past,” Journal of American History 91:4 (March 2005): 1233-1263.
Kelly, Brian. “Unfinished Business: Martin Luther King in Memphis,” International Socialism Journal 118 (Spring 2008): 73-93.
Lawson, James. “Forty Years Since King: The Memphis Sanitation Strike,” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas 5:1 (Spring 2008): 8-13.
Interview with historian Michael Honey on 'King's Last Campaign for
King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
King, "Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam"
Riverside Church, Harlem: 4 April 1967
King, “I’ve been to the Mountaintop”
Mason Temple, Memphis: 3 April 1968
Press Reaction to King’s Speech on Vietnam: