A Community Awakens

The day after the Macing March 150 black ministers formed the Community on the Move for Equality (COME) in support of the strikers. COME called for a boycott of all downtown businesses - specifically businesses associated with Mayor Loeb and his family - and the two daily newspapers. Soon, ministers, community activists and high school and college students marched alongside the striking sanitation workers.

Unmoved, the city council and the mayor still refused to negotiate. On March 5 COME organized protests, resulting in mass arrests that filled the city's jails - in all 117 strikers and supporters were arrested. Reverend James Lawson, who headed COME, began contacting national civil rights leaders in an effort to gain national attention on the crisis in Memphis.

From the I Am A Man Exhibit Symposium

Wayne State University Walter P. Reuther Library

Jessie Epss, an AFSCME staffer and strike leader, discusses how the strikers gained community support. Filmed 10/10/2003. Digitized August 2011. Clip extracted December 2011.

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Community on the Move for Equality newsletter Volume 1 Number 1. City's Negroes Back Sanitation Workers (Date: 1968)

Community on the Move for Equality letter to Memphis ministers informing them about re-scheduled march with Martin Luther King, Jr. (Date: 1968)

March in support of sanitation workers along Main Street Memphis (Date: 1968)

The Parkway Village Jaycees in Memphis dispose of more than 20 truckloads of garbage brought to an area shopping center, February 25. (Creator: Shearin, Jim; Date: 1968-02-25)

Boycott supporters led by Miss Cornelia Crenshaw. (Creator: Copley, Richard)

Rev. H. Ralph Jackson, Rev. L.E. Donaldson, police commissioner Frank Holloman, and Dr. Baxton Bryant, Tennessee council on human relations (left to right). (Creator: Copley, Richard)

Rev. James Lawson with a supporter of the Memphis downtown boycott.