VOL. 133 | NO. 54 | Thursday, March 15, 2018
Dedication Of Plaza Among King Observances
By Bill Dries
The city will formally dedicate a plaza in honor of the 1968 striking sanitation workers at an April 5 ceremony, one of numerous events surrounding the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.
“I Am A Man” Plaza is currently taking shape on what was a vacant lot on the southeast corner of Pontotoc Avenue and Hernando Street beside Clayborn Temple, the church that was a gathering point and strategy center for the strike with daily marches from there to City Hall.
The centerpiece is a steel sculpture with the words “I Am A Man” – the words on signs those strikers carried during the 64-day work stoppage.
Two of the children of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. are scheduled to be in the city April 3 and 4 for an observance of the 50th anniversary of the strike and King’s assassination.
Local observances of the 50th anniversary of the 1968 sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. will include two of King’s children along with marches and remembrances. (Daily News File/Lance Murphey)
Bernice King and Martin Luther King III will be at Mason Temple Church of God in Christ April 3, 50 years to the day that their father delivered his final speech at Mason Temple – the mountaintop speech.
The observance is being organized under the banner of “I Am 2018” by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union representing the sanitation workers, and the COGIC.
The day after the Mason Temple gathering, on the 50th anniversary of the assassination, the groups will hold a march from AFSCME headquarters at Beale Street and Danny Thomas Boulevard to Mason Temple.
AFSCME and COGIC will also hold training sessions April 2-4 to organize activists and voters.
Also on April 4, a new historical marker will be unveiled near the corner of B.B. King Boulevard and Adams Avenue that notes the location of a slave market owned by Nathan Bedford Forrest. The marker, by Calvary Episcopal Church and the National Park Service, will be near a 1955 marker about Forrest that makes no mention of his time as a slave trader.
That evening as the National Civil Rights Museum marks the assassination anniversary in the courtyard where King was shot, bells will toll at churches, college campuses and other places at 6:01 p.m. – the moment of the assassination. The bells will toll 39 times for King’s age at the time of his death.
The museum is holding a two-day symposium April 2-3, including an April 2 session with the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law featuring former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. The next day’s session at the museum will feature several panel discussions and a keynote speech by King biographer and civil rights movement historian Taylor Branch.
Meanwhile, local religious leaders will march from St. Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral to City Hall on April 7 to mark 50 years since a group of clergy did the same thing the day after King’s assassination seeking an end to the strike and meeting with Mayor Henry Loeb in his office at City Hall.
Among those present for the April 7 march with be Rev. James Lawson, Rev. James Netters and Father Nicholas Vieron, who were present at the 1968 march from St. Mary’s. Netters is one of the two surviving Memphis City Council members from 1968 along with Fred Davis.
The group will meet at City Hall with Mayor Jim Strickland.